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50 Ways to Get Kids Hooked on the Outdoors

Feel the wind on your face, plant a garden, jump in a pile of leaves - just get outside!

By Dyanne Fry Cortez, Wendee Holtcamp and Bernadette Noll

Kids don't develop a relationship with nature by watching it on the Discovery Channel. They need to feel the wind, smell leaves and wildflowers, run their fingers over rocks and make personal contact with other living things. Pristine wilderness is not required: Ask any of today's dedicated outdoorsmen, and you may find that his favorite childhood memory involves a backyard tree house or fishing in an irrigation canal. Encourage children to get outside wherever they can, as often as possible, and start building their own memories. Here are 50 ideas to help kids reconnect with the outdoors. – Dyanne Fry Cortez

Build a sand castle

You need fine, wet sand for building. Ingredients are available most places on the Texas coast. Sand sculpting can be a family project, with tasks appropriate to every age level. Bring shovels for digging and buckets for mixing sand and water. Paint scrapers and plastic forks and knives make good carving tools. – DFC

Walk in the rain

Everyone should try this at least once. Smell the fresh scent of rain-washed air. Listen to drops falling on grass and tree canopies. Watch them gather into streams; have stick boat races. Jump in a puddle! Wear boots, carry an umbrella or just decide to get wet. (This works best in a gentle, steady rain. If you hear thunder, get inside or under cover.) – DFC

Make mud pies

Messy and creative, mud pie preparation can happen anywhere and requires little supervision. Spoons, sticks, cookie cutters and aluminum pie plates make useful tools. Seeds, pebbles, leaves and bits of fallen fruit add interest. As they work, kids learn about the texture, absorption and drying characteristics of different soils. – DFC

Jump in a pile of leaves

Rake fallen leaves into a neat pile and kids will dive in, delighting in the earthy smell and the squishy, crunchy feel of leaves giving way under them. They'll get leaf bits in their hair and clothes. They'll scatter leaves across the lawn, and someone will have to rake them up again. But who cares? – DFC

Look for shapes in clouds

They may be just blobs of water vapor in the sky, but with a little imagination, a cloud can become an animal, a spaceship or a favorite cartoon character. Cloud gazing is free and fun for all ages. Chances are that everyone will see something different, but arguing about it is half the fun. – DFC

Open windows

Just opening a window allows a little of the outdoors to come inside. You'll be more aware of the wind, its speed and direction. You'll smell what's blooming in your neighbor's yard. You may hear birds singing, crickets chirping, small animals moving through the grass and the call of a screech owl after dark. – DFC

Watch fireflies

"Lightning bugs" winking on and off in the soft air of a summer night have fascinated kids for generations. Catch a few in a jar and you'll see that each bug is really a small beetle. Be sure to poke air holes in the jar lid, and let the fireflies go when you're done. – DFC

Go barefoot

Walking barefoot puts a person in touch with nature. Try green lawns and interesting rock surfaces, or let sand or mud squish between the toes! You have to pay attention: after all, Texas is dotted with burrs and thorns. There are places where barefooting won't work, but plenty of places where it will. For small children, going shoeless is recommended for healthy foot development. (See "My Barefoot Years.") – DFC

Explore a mini-landscape

Using a hula hoop or length of rope, mark off a circle on the ground – or try making two circles, one in a sunny area and one in shade. Challenge kids to list or describe each type of plant and animal found within the circle. Pencil, paper and a magnifying glass will come in handy. – DFC

Harvest fruit or nuts

Mustang grapes, dewberries, cactus tunas and other edible fruits grow wild in Texas. Pick them by the roadside or on private land with the owner's permission. Gather pecans on a riverbank, or visit a pick-your-own peach or apple orchard. Involve the whole family in making jelly, pie or ice cream topping. (Note: Children should never pick and eat anything without adult supervision. Some wild things are poisonous.) – DFC

Have a picnic

Pack a lunch. Let the kids help. It needn't be anything fancy: sandwiches, fruit, a bag of chips or carrot sticks, a jug of lemonade or a small ice chest with canned drinks. Eat at your neighborhood park, the nearest state park or a roadside picnic table. If ants or wasps threaten, "bait" them with a slice of apple at a safe distance. – DFC

Play old-fashioned games

Grandparents knew how to have fun without a lot of fancy equipment. Teach kids to pitch washers or horseshoes. Organize a sack race or a tug-of-war. Tag, hide-and-seek, Red Rover, jump rope, I Spy, marbles or jacks: these games date back hundreds of years, and once they've learned the basics, kids will invent their own variations. Their imaginations will run wild outdoors. – DFC

Go swimming

Kids are drawn to water like bumblebees to partridge peas. Everyone should learn to swim and become familiar with basic lifesaving techniques. Besides, a dip in a lake, river or neighborhood pool is great exercise and a fun way to cool off on a sizzling summer day. – DFC

Go fishing

Try a cane pole or a rod with a spincast reel. Corn, worms or pieces of hot dog make good bait. There's nothing like the feel of a fish on the line. With luck, kids may catch something they can cook and eat. You can fish without a license in Texas state parks, and some have tackle loaner programs for beginning anglers. – DFC

Fly a kite

It's sheer joy to be out on a windy spring day holding the string of a soaring kite. Inexpensive store-bought kites give plenty of thrills, but it's even more fun to make your own. Use paper plates, paper sacks, gift wrapping, drinking straws and string. How many aeronautical engineers began by flying kites when they were kids? – DFC

Find art in nature

The outdoor world offers endless possibilities, from sketching what you see to using natural materials in creative projects. Try making leaf prints or taking rubbings of rock or different tree barks. Weave flower wreaths to wear in your hair or squish flowers onto paper to see what color dye they'll make. Make a plant press with old newspaper and dry wildflowers for special note cards. Mix paints with water from a puddle or stream. – DFC

Have a campfire

Dancing flames at the edge of a dark night, scary stories, group singalongs, roasting marshmallows and s'mores, and the warmth of companionship: the campfire is an ancient tradition and still a great way to create lasting memories. Practice good safety habits, and be sure to build fires only in designated areas. – DFC


Go camping

Spending a whole night outdoors – or a weekend – will eventually get children's minds off their video games. Texas has hundreds of campgrounds: primitive, civilized and everything in between. If your family has little camping experience, start with small steps. Pitch a tent in the backyard. When kids make it through the night, they'll gain a sense of independence. – DFC

Build a dam

Humans seem to inherently love dam building, and creek beds and rivers are full of ample dam building materials such as rocks, logs, sticks and mud. Pile the rocks high in a pyramid structure or lay them out flat in a row. Pack in the mud and sticks all around. What does the structure do to the water's flow? Where does the water go when its natural course is changed? Make a small pool and see what gathers in it. – BN

Attend an outdoor performance

Mix culture with nature by taking kids to a concert in the park or a summer theater production. Outdoor shows have their perks. You can pack your own drinks and snacks. If kids get bored with what's onstage, they can look at the sky or search for bugs in the grass. – DFC

Relax in a hammock

If it's a couch-potato kind of day, encourage kids to relax outdoors. A hammock on the porch, or in a shady area of the yard, is a great place to relax, read a book or watch birds and insects go about their business. Some hammocks are roomy enough for two kids and a family pet. – DFC

Dig a hole to China

Whether at the beach or in your own backyard, get out the shovels and see how deep you can dig. Small metal spades are perfect for kids, and having their own tools makes it especially enticing. In our yard, we have discovered many hidden treasures such as old medicine bottles and even an old metal toy. Examine the different layers of growth, soil and animal life. How low can you go? – BN

Litter scavenger hunt

Next time you're in a public park, make litter pickup into a game. Make a list of some commonly found trash items: bottle cap, plastic bottle, chip bag, plastic grocery bag, etc. Give each kid a bag, a glove and a list. You can mix up the lists so everyone isn't competing for the same items. Set a timer and see how many items on the list each one can find in the time allotted. – BN

Sensory walk

In a field or in the woods, take a walk with your kids. Discuss the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. Pause every few minutes and ask the kids what they sense in that spot. Are there birds singing? A flower blooming? What colors and textures are all around? Try it blindfolded or with earplugs. What senses work overtime when others are ineffective? – BN

Use your inside games

Common table games are somehow more fun outside. Tic-tac-toe can be scratched in the dirt and is way more enticing than on paper. Hangman, too. Sketch a checker board on the sidewalk and fabricate markers out of stones and acorns. Or just spread a blanket on the grass for Monopoly or Candyland played in a whole new and naturally lit venue. – BN

Make a boat

A pond, creek or slow-moving river is the perfect spot for setting sail a small boat. Whether you make it ahead of time out of wood or a milk carton or create it on the spot, the fun is in the process. Find a piece of bark, set a twig post in it and weave on a large leaf for a sail. Have races, try to sink it with pebbles, or simply let the boat (if made of natural materials) float on downstream. – BN

Plant a little garden

A garden need not be an overwhelming endeavor of time or space. A small garden made in moveable pots can be lots of fun and easily maintained by even the busiest of families. Or build a square-foot garden from simple plant boxes from scrap lumber. Give each person his/her own box. Have each person plant something for a salad and come together at harvest time for the ultimate family dinner. – BN

Go orienteering or geocaching

Orienteering is a competitive form of land navigation. It is for all ages and skill levels and can feel like a suspense-filled treasure hunt. The object of orienteering is to locate control points by using a map and a compass to navigate through the woods. Geocaching uses global positioning system (GPS) coordinates to locate hidden objects in a treasure hunt. You can set up your own orienteering course or geocache on any nature trail or in any woods near you. Get your brood started in this action-packed and fun sport by searching out tips online. – BN

Cook outside

A meal prepared on an open fire is way more fun, and you don't have to wait for a camping trip to do it. Make a small wood fire in a fire pit or grill. Corn on the cob, in the husk and placed in the coals for 10 minutes, is delicious. Or stick a potato directly in the coals. Mix up some ground beef, water, chopped potatoes, onions and seasoning. Double wrap it in foil and stick it in the coals – seam side up. Make your own recipes or find oodles of ideas online. – BN

Use a pocketknife

Kids are thrilled when they see a pocketknife with all its blades and gadgets. When to give a kid his own can only be determined by a responsible adult. The lesson should include using the knife as a tool, not a weapon. Also, children should be told where and when they are permitted to carry such a tool. The thrill of a first knife is an honorable gift, and one which should not be taken lightly – bestowing the proper amount of respect for the blade is crucial and a lifelong gift. – BN

Target practice

Recently we found several dozen plastic pots in a neighbor's trash, and my son dragged them home for target practice. He stacked them into a pyramid and knocked them down with a rock or a ball or a good, swift kick. A target can be painted, stacked or drawn on just about any available surface; the weapon of choice can be as varied. Find a small archery set in a local sports or secondhand store. Make a slingshot from a stick and surgical tubing. Remember, though, that with the weapon must also come instructions for wielding it safely. – BN

Bike course

The joy of bike riding is ageless. Plan a day's bike outing in the neighborhood or on a hike-and-bike trail nearby. Go to an empty lot or field and make a family bike obstacle course using sticks and rocks as markers. Time each other. Make bike relay teams. Feel the wind in your face and enjoy the sights and sounds that are not heard when riding in a car. – BN

Sidewalk games

Not so very long ago, a sidewalk or alley served as a playground for kids of all ages. Bring that feeling back for your kids by getting out the jump rope, pogo stick, skateboard or roller skates. Tie the rope to a fence and turn it for them chanting whatever jumping jingles you can remember. Have pogo stick contests seeing who can stay on the longest. Try some skateboard tricks or just go around the block on skates. Show them the simple fun that is in their own front yard. – BN

Make a whistle from a blade of grass

This little trick never ceases to first surprise and then engage a group of kids. Find a blade of grass that is somewhat wide and flat. Position the blade flat between your two upward pointed thumbs. Through the small hole that is made just below the top knuckle, blow to vibrate the blade of grass. It takes practice but when you get it, wow, it can be a loud and crazy sound. Lying in the grass on your back is the best position for this endeavor. – BN

Build a fort or treehouse

Though building a treehouse requires a big tree and a small amount of building materials and skills, building a fort can be done anywhere by anyone. If you've got the space and tools, go for the treehouse. If not, build a fort on the ground, in a bush or even in a pile of brush. Find a desolate part of the yard and start constructing with twigs, rocks, branches or bamboo. Arrange them as you wish – weaving and stacking as you see fit. If you have a big fluffy bush, simply clear out a hole in the center where kids can hide away for hours. – BN

Wade in a running stream

Wiggle your toes in a cool running stream. Walk out a bit, wading to your calves, letting the water flow past. Make sure the water is not too deep or swift and that everyone wears a life jacket. In clear spring-fed springs, look for fish, crawfish and tadpoles in the water. Pick up rocks and look for caddisfly and mayfly larvae or other critters. – WH

Get an early start on birdwatching

A lifetime love of birdwatching can start as a child. Set up a birdfeeder with various types of seed, suet or sugar water for hummingbirds. Keep a record of what birds visit during different seasons. Take your child out with a pair of binoculars in the fall or spring to watch the great variety of migrating hawks, songbirds and shorebirds. – WH

Start a collection

Kids love to collect things. Rocks and shells are always favorites. Gather various colors, shapes and sizes, and then use a field guide to identify them. Egg cartons work well for storing small rocks and shells. Preserve flowers with an inexpensive plant press – or make one. Make sure not to collect rocks, shells or plants from state parks, where rules prohibit collection so that future generations can enjoy these special places intact. – WH

Nature treasure hunt

Scavenger hunts can make fantastic birthday party games. For young kids, create a list of items with a "key," such as a photocopy of leaf shapes for kids to find or items starting with letters of the alphabet. For older kids, hunts can get trickier and more creative. Have teams look for unusual natural items, such as an amphibian or reptile, a fungus, something a bird could eat, different-sized rocks or seeds, or something red. Kids can use digital or cell phone cameras to document their finds. – WH

Butterfly garden

Attract butterflies to your garden with nectar-producing flowers like eupatorium, lantana, butterfly weed, sage, Mexican mint marigold, black-eyed Susans or purple coneflower. Most butterflies visit between spring and fall, but migrating species will need flowering plants even through November. Monarchs lay their eggs only on butterfly weed (aka milkweed), but adults will sip nectar from other flowers. Learn to identify species with a field guide. – WH

Take a hike

For a young child's first hike, take them somewhere with exceptional scenic beauty, wildlife or diversions such as interesting rocks and flowers, a boardwalk or a pond. Keep it short, or bring a sack lunch and give kids several breaks to let them explore their surroundings. For older kids, try a longer trek, exploring one of Texas' 100-plus state parks or our three national parks or preserves. – WH

Stargaze

Captivate your senses on a moonless night by staring at the vastness of the sky in all its starlit beauty. Head to a grassy knoll with a blanket, a star chart and a laser pointer to identify constellations. Better yet, head outside during one of the year's meteor showers to witness dozens of shooting stars. The Perseid shower peaks August 12 every year, and other showers occur throughout the year. Visibility depends on the phase of the moon, among other factors. – WH

Engine-free travel

Try a more close-to-the-earth mode of transportation. Ride horseback through a wooded trail, tube or raft down the Comal or Guadalupe River, canoe or kayak down a lazy stream, or take your kids sailing on one of Texas' gorgeous bays. Point out to kids their beginning and ending points on a map so they get a sense of where they're headed, and how far they will go. Map reading is a great life skill! – WH

Learn how to hunt and fish!

Many places throughout Texas offer hunting camps or fishing classes for kids. Learn fishing basics as a family at a state park Family Fishing event. (See the online calendar of events at TPWD website (www.tpwd.state.tx.us), or check with your local scouts or 4H chapter.) Anyone under 17 can fish for free in Texas, with no need to buy a license. TPWD offers basic and advanced junior angler classes for basic casting and fly-fishing. The Texas Wildlife Association and TPWD also offer a Texas Youth Hunting Program for kids ages 9 through 17. – WH

Climb a tree

Trees seem to have an almost magnetic force that draws kids into their branches. Find some good old, gnarled multi-branched oaks with sturdy limbs and climb up and around. Hang upside-down from a sideways-growing limb. Wedged in the crook of sturdy tree limbs, kids can read a book or watch the sun go down. – WH

Volunteer

What better way to raise and inspire socially and environmentally conscious future citizens than to volunteer alongside them in an effort that helps improve your community? Help with a roadside or beach cleanup, plant trees, revegetate a marsh, work in a community garden, or volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center or local park. – WH

Contests!

Parents can keep kids entertained for hours by creating nature-inspired contests. Who can find the weirdest insect? Who can locate the most plant varieties, or flowers? Have kids see who can gather the most sticks – great when you're trying to build a campfire! Have a field guide handy so kids can identify their finds. Or see if they can find something starting with every letter of the alphabet, or objects that resemble every letter of the alphabet. – WH

Skip stones

With a flick of the wrist, see how many times a flattened stone can skim the water's surface. The magic angle to toss a stone for optimal skipping? According to a team of French physicists, 20 degrees. Greater than 45 degrees, and it will sink. The best size and shape? Rounded, flattened and three to four inches across. The longstanding Guinness Book of World Records title for stone skips was on Central Texas' Blanco River – a respectable 38 skips. But that was surpassed in 2002 by 40 skips, and just in October 2007 by a whopping 51. – WH

Walking stick

Choosing and carving your own personal walking stick can be a rewarding experience. Kids love to use their own creations for a utilitarian purpose! For hiking, select a stick that reaches shoulder length. The stick need not stand straight; some prefer the look of a twist. Heavier sticks become more difficult to carry on long hikes, but sticks should be sturdy enough to lean on. Saw knots and branches off the main limb, then sand with 100-grit sandpaper until smooth. Repeat with 200-grit, then again with 400-grit for a super-soft finish. – WH

Go digital

Today's kids love technology, whether games, the Internet or video-recording technology. Combine 21st-century kids' insatiable appetite for all things electronic with the outdoors by challenging them to come up with a creative or humorous outdoor video using a camcorder or even a cell phone video camera. Let them try to create something for YouTube or their MySpace page. – WH

Richard Louv's Book Raises Tough Questions

I may have been the last child in the woods.

Growing up in the hills of central Texas, my summers were filled with riotous games with neighborhood kids, cavorting through the oak- and cedar-studded forest. On days when no one was around, I would curl up under a shade tree with a book, reveling in the chaotic peace of fresh breezes and chattering wildlife. Even now, I find comfort and calm in the woods, maybe from a lingering nostalgia. Perhaps there's just something inherently therapeutic about immersing yourself in nature.

The contrast between my youth and my younger sister's is marked. Where I ran wild through the trees, she spent hours watching DVDs and playing computer games. She had the same access to nature that I did, but something subtle changed in the seven years that separate us.

In Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv explores these differences. With a straightforward, engaging writing style, he explores possible reasons why children today are less connected to nature and the consequences of this disconnection.

Technology is a handy scapegoat for our disconnection from nature, but Louv explores less obvious reasons, too. He interviewed children and adults, and their experiences will hit close to home for many readers. Some kids say their parents are too worried about possible dangers to let them play in nature, while others mention favorite spots outside that have been overtaken by development. Louv also discusses the legal and safety concerns now associated with what used to be normal childhood pastimes – building a treehouse, for example.

What are the consequences of this disconnect? The rise of childhood obesity has long been a controversial topic, but what about mental and emotional health? One college student recounts her experiences after her father's death when she was nine, and the critical role that nature played in her grieving process: "When you are in [nature], it makes you realize that there are far larger things at work than yourself. ... Being in nature can be a way to escape without fully leaving the world."

Louv examines the problems of today's children (the rise of antidepressant use, for example), which he connects to their lack of experience in nature. His findings are at times startling and discouraging, but the book is not all doom and gloom. Many of the children Louv interviews retain a love of the outdoors that is encouraging, and he offers creative ideas on how to bring children and nature back together.

Louv's look at nature, and our connection to it throughout our lives, is profound and compelling. Last Child in the Woods is a worthwhile read for anyone, young or old, who has ever felt a connection (or wished that they had) to the natural world around them.

– Sarah Bond

Find More Ideas in Books and on Web Sites

Books
  • Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv, Algonquin Books, 2005. (A new edition due out in spring 2008 will include a user's guide for parents and grandparents.)
  • The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.
  • The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.
  • The American Boys Handy Book by Daniel Carter Beard, Dover Publications. (This book is over a hundred years old and is still going strong.)
  • The Field and Forest Handy Book by Daniel Carter Beard, Dover Publications.
  • The American Girls Handy Book by Lina Beard, The Derrydale Press.
Web Sites
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
  • Outdoor Kids: www.tpwd.state.tx.us/kids/
  • Outdoor Family: www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/bof/
Learn to Fish:
  • www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/angler_education/learnfish.phtml
Other Organizations
  • Children & Nature Network: www.cnaturenet.org
  • Green Hour, hosted by the National Wildlife Federation: www.greenhour.org
  • Texas Youth Hunting Program: www.tyhp.org

My Barefoot Years

When I was growing up in East Texas during the 1930s and '40s, going barefoot during the warm months was the norm. Many people still believe that this custom came about because of rural poverty during the Depression. 'Tain't so. I was an avid barefooter, and I can tell you that all the boys I knew went barefooted by choice, not because they did not have shoes.

You must remember that this was long before television, iPods and computer games, and southern boys spent most of their time outdoors, climbing trees, playing cow-pasture baseball, swimming or playing cowboys and Indians with homemade rubber guns. And going barefoot was not just a rural phenomenon. I was a town kid and all of the pre-teen boys I knew doffed their brogans in mid-April and did not put them back on until the first cold snap in late fall. This custom was almost universal in East Texas and most of the Deep South states.

Going barefooted was fun, but it did have its hazards. While wading in the creeks you had to watch out for snakes, crawfish and broken bottles. In the fields you avoided prickly pear cacti, stinging nettles and fresh cow patties. In town the biggest hazard was discarded (but still lit) cigarette butts.

My father, Cecil Murphy, and his brother Marvin were avid fishermen and made frequent weekend camping trips to indulge their hobby of trotline fishing for channel cats down on the Angelina River, and they usually took me along to do the grunt work.

An overnight trip like this required a considerable amount of live bait, which was obtained by seining the various small ponds and bar ditches in our area. Since, at 12, I was already an experienced barefoot wader, I was chosen to be the deep man on the minnow seine. While my dad or uncle stood on the bank and anchored that end, I was required to make a sweep around the deep water with the other end of the seine, hoping that I wouldn't step on a rusty can, broken bottle or other underwater hazard or, even worse, disturb a nest of moccasins near the grassy bank.

At our Angelina campsite near the "Old Iron Bridge," I became the designated trotline baiter. I did not mind hooking up the minnows or night-crawlers, but unfortunately my uncle always insisted that some of the hooks be baited with blood bait. In case you have forgotten, pilgrim, blood bait, made from the blood from slaughterhouses, was undoubtedly the vilest smelling substance ever concocted by man, and the memory of having to dig that noisome stuff out of the can, mold it into little balls and bait the hooks with it still turns my stomach. Indeed, I think it was my experience as Trotline Baitboy and Deep Man on the Minnow Seine that turned me against trotline fishing and going barefoot.

Now you never see a barefoot boy. And I guess it's a good thing. During the 1930s and '40s, the U.S. Department of Health conducted a survey and found that hookworm disease (ancylostomiasis) was rampant in East Texas and the southern states. Since it was also known that the parasite entered the body mainly through the soles of the feet, doctors strongly recommended that children not be allowed to spend time outdoors without their shoes. So this effectively ended the custom.

Today Texas boys who might have once romped shoeless in the summer sport $200 Nikes or Reeboks. These lads, alas, will never know the joy of running barefoot through cool clover or squishing unshod in warm mud. But, of course, they have the boob tube and those fascinating computer games – so who needs the outdoors? – Richard Murphy

Paint a Fish, Win a Prize

Sponsored by Wildlife Forever and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas State Fish Art Contest is open to any Texas student in grades 4 through 12. Contestants must create an illustration of an officially recognized state fish and write a one-page composition about its behavior, habitat and conservation. One Texas winner is selected from each of three grade levels: 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. Those winners then compete at the national level for "best of show" and "art of conservation stamp" honors. Deadline for entries is March 31.

"Wildlife Forever strongly believes conservation education will ultimately determine the future of our fish and wildlife heritage," says Wildlife Forever president and CEO Douglas H. Grann. "The State Fish Art Contest is a fun and innovative way to introduce America's youth to the wonders of our natural world."

The 2007 art of conservation stamp award went to Clayton Bowen of Eagle Lake. Bowen's drawing of a Guadalupe bass was reproduced as a conservation stamp; proceeds from sales of the stamp go to support conservation projects nationwide.

Because 580 Texas students entered the contest last year, many outstanding pieces of artwork went unrecognized. The Toyota Texas Bass Classic and the Texas Bass Classic Foundation accepted the challenge and will be providing scholarships of $1,000, $750 and $500 for the first-, second- and third-place winners in the grades 10 through 12 category, and savings bonds of $100, $75 and $50 for winners in the lower grades, as well as round-trip airfare to the awards ceremony in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the three first-place winners. Each Texas entrant will also receive a fishing lure from Strike King Lure Company.

Texas entries are judged at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. For details on the contest and how to enter, visit the Texas State Fish-Art Contest. – Larry D. Hodge

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