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"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs & turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, hickory nuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets – and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." -Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926
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Los Angeles WOW Program in the Park for First Time Campers

WOW! Wonderful Outdoor World

For many of us, our first camping experience was one of the most memorable events of our childhood. Through camping and outdoor adventures we learned to pitch a tent, cook on a cook stove, catch fish and watch for shooting stars. Recent studies have shown that this seemingly innocent appreciation of outdoor recreation is actually a strong contributor to overall happiness, health and career success in later adult life.

Unfortunately, changing family structures and declining resources are leaving many of today's young people without an understanding or interest in the world outside their doors. Urban youth in particular are lacking the skills and motivation to actively enjoy the wonders of the natural world. In 1994, a consortium of concerned officials from the private, philanthropic and public sectors convened to address this trend towards indoor isolation. It was determined that an introductory program to prepare urban youth for the vast opportunities in outdoor recreation is needed in urban centers all across the country. In response, a new program was unveiled in the spring of 1995, which aimed to provide urban families with the necessary skills and confidence to safely enjoy outdoor recreational activities. This exciting new program is called WOW (Wonderful Outdoor World).

The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks WOW program offers camping experiences throughout the city of Los Angeles. With an emphasis on utilizing our neighborhood parks, LA WOW engages 42 youth, boys and girls in a well rounded first time camping experience.

WOW is both a philosophy and a program that at its foundation believes that outdoor recreation plays an important and positive role in American culture. WOW will take a core group of young people ages 8- 12 and their families through a one and one-half day camping experience within the heart of their own community (parents will participate during the opening and closing activities). The goals of WOW are to introduce inner-city youth to camping and outdoor recreation through a safe and controlled experience. WOW emphasizes the importance of understanding and respecting urban and wildland ecosystems.

Through WOW young people will learn:

  • Enhanced Family Values
  • Democratic Skills and Team Work
  • Constructive Self Reliance
  • Outdoor Skills
  • Curiosity and the Desire to Work and Do More
  • Respect for the Outdoor World

In 1996, after the pilot program was completed in Los Angeles, the national sponsors of WOW expanded the program across the U.S. to five additional cities: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Salt Lake City, Utah; Denver, Colorado; Washington D.C., and Phoenix, Arizona. Recreation professionals from the Walt Disney Company, the Bureau of Land Management, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, the Recreation Roundtable, California State University, Long Beach have designed the elements and methodology of the WOW program.

The planned activities include instruction on:

  • Campsite Set-Up
  • Fishing
  • Meal Preparation
  • Conservation
  • Basic Camping Skills
  • Character Enrichment
  • General Recreation Skills and Games
  • Leave no trace principals
  • Backpacking
  • Team Building
  • Stargazing
  • Survival
  • Rock Climbing
  • Urban Animals & Reptiles <.UL> During each overnight session, campers undertake a community service project as a testament to their respect for the outdoor environment (i.e. clean ups, tree planting). At the completion of the overnight session, all participants will take home a sleeping bag, flashlight and Goodie Bag to encourage future recreational activities. In addition, campers will receive valuable information, maps and resources on outdoor recreational opportunities and other environmental programs in their area.

    For more articles about NATURE & KIDS

    Young Birders Get Serious About Birding Fun
    The Squirrel Family 0 Backyard Nature Safari
    Hamsters are rodents and cuddly pets
    Kids Learning Links
    Buddy's Diner (for the birds)
    Bird Profiles for Young Naturalists