“I don’t like anything outdoors because videogames are better,” said Esteban, a young boy who attended the event with Families in Nature, who then spent most of the event having fun on a canoe, paddleboard and kayak.

A few hours outdoors can broaden the viewpoint of new nature lovers. Activities on the water are endless opportunities to explore.

June 3 Lake Mead National Recreational Area hosted Families in Nature for Paddling 101 at Cottonwood Cove. At the start of the event, each attendee introduced him or herself and shared about their favorite outdoor activity. Several said they are hiking aficionados while many of the parents simply loved being able to spend time outside with their family and enjoy nature together, without any electronics.

After the introductions, Park Ranger Elizabeth Skinner began a fashion show with life jackets to educate and encourage water safety.  Each fashion show model intentionally wore his or her life jacket backwards or a size off to demonstrate some of the most common incorrect ways to wear a life jacket. The kids giggled at all the ridiculous ways to wear a life jacket then quickly described what was wrong so that the model could make proper corrections.

Soon children and their parents were out kayaking, paddleboarding and canoeing on the water with their life jackets. Some were hesitant to get on but loved it after getting on the water.

Park Ranger Skinner said that she found it that funny that Esteban was first in line to try the different paddlecraft and would not get off the paddle board when it was time for lunch. She adds, “While we took our 30 minute lunch break, he asked me several times ‘Can I get in the canoe? Can I get in the kayak? Can I get back on the paddleboard?’ So, I think he does like some things other than video games!”

Families brought their own lunch, pot-luck style, with reusable plates and utensils in order to eliminate trash and materials from being left behind at the beach. Park Ranger Skinner helped the children learn more about trash decomposition when each game participant received a trash item (i.e., plastic bottle, orange peel, styrofoam cup) and lined up according to the perceived biodegradability of his or her item. Then, she revealed the accurate time measurement for each item. Some of the major eye-openers were the plastic bottle – 450 years to decompose, and glass bottles – 1 million years. The orange peel moved to front of the line with only 2-5 weeks to decompose and the styrofoam cup was last because it could take forever to decompose.

Carmen Coronas shared that she has been a part of the Families in Nature for about 10 years. She and her children have been a part of events at several national parks including the Grand Canyon and Zion. Coronas said “Todos estos paseos son de mucho aprendizaje” which translates into “We learn so much during all these trips.”

When families arrived at the event, some were eager to get on the water – though others wished they would have stayed home. By the end of the event, people of all ages and from various prior experiences with nature walked away with new knowledge and memories at Lake Mead.

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