KENNEWICK – Youngsters and families can connect with nature and learn outdoor skills at a Youth Outdoor Adventure Expo May 16-17 at the Benton County Fairgrounds here.
The free expo, co-sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Go Play Outside Alliance of Washington (GoPAW), is open to the general public Saturday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The expo will feature instruction and demonstrations by more than 100 outdoor experts and educators. Activities for children and adults will include bird identification, bird-of-prey demonstrations, bat box construction, boating, casting, catch-and-release fishing, compass reading, fish identification, fish scale reading, fish tracking, firearm safety, fly tying, outdoor survival, poaching control and wildlife enforcement tools, and shrub-steppe wildlife studies.
On May 16 the expo will be open for students in grades 3-8 and their teachers. Expo hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and pre-registration is required. More than three dozen schools and over 1,500 students have signed up, according to John Kerwin, WDFW public outreach manager, and Dianne Warrant, GoPAW president, who are organizing the event.
Schools can continue to register students for the event through April 30 by contacting Keith Underwood, WDFW outdoor specialist, at (360) 902-8310. Fuel stipends for transporting students to the event are available to schools at the rate of $100 per bus or $40 per van with at least eight students.
“Last year’s youth expo in Longview provided outdoor recreation experiences for over 4,000 youngsters and nearly 1,000 adults,” said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. “These activities help young people develop a lifelong passion for the outdoors and wildlife.”
Such experiences have become more important than ever as an increasing number of children are growing up spending little time outdoors, Koenings said. A number of writers nationally have recently called attention to the so-called “nature deficit disorder.”
“Young people increasingly spend more time indoors exploring the Internet than outdoors exploring their environment,” he said. “That’s why the skills and experiences offered available at the Youth Expo are so important. These experiences offer a foundation for a lifetime of rewarding recreation and awareness of wildlife and natural resources.”
The expo is partly funded by a $5,000 grant from Weatherby Foundation International, a non-profit foundation that supports events focused on outdoor skill-building, ethical sport hunting and conservation education—including outdoor expos—throughout the nation.