Parents looking for some fun activities for their kids this summer may want to mark their calendars for the fifth annual Xtreme Roan Adventures, which will be held Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27, at Roan Mountain State Park.
The event, designed as a nature rally for kids, is sponsored by the Friends of Roan Mountain. Although fun is the primary focus, organizers hope that participants learn some lessons that will stick with them.
“It is important to expose kids to nature at an early age, so that they will be aware and take care of our living environment into the future,” said Nora Schubert, one of the original organizers of the rally and its assistant director for the past five years.
“This is our 5th year doing Xtreme Roan Adventures,” said Larry McDaniel, who also helped create and organize the rally.
“I served as the director for the first two years and am now co-director with Ken Turner.”
The annual event offers a variety of outdoor and nature-related activities for kids to enjoy.
For a second year, the rally will offer some Friday evening activities.
“We added Friday night activities to the rally last year and it was such a success that we had to do it again,” McDaniel said. “What kid isn’t intrigued by the creatures of the night?”
Activities will include a nature at night walk, an owl prowl, a study of the bats of Tennessee, astronomy and a moth party.
Moths and other nocturnal insects happen to be McDaniel’s specialty.
For several years, McDaniel has been honing his skills at identifying “porch light insects” and will share what he has learned during Friday’s activities when he sets up a sheet and lights to attract nocturnal insects.
“Kids really seem to enjoy seeing what different types of insects are attracted to the moth sheets,” McDaniel said. “The ultraviolet lights along with fluorescent flood lights bring in an amazing variety of moths and other night flying insects. The kids, like most people, have always noticed insects flying around porch lights but seldom tried to get good enough looks to see what they look like up close.”
Getting a close, detailed look at some of these creatures may surprise people.
“Seeing these marvels up close and learning what they are and more about what they do inspires the kids to try it at home,” McDaniel said. “It can’t help but encourage the children to gain a better understanding and appreciation of insect life and natural world that is all around us.”
No registration is required for the Friday evening activities. Saturday activities, however, require registration and payment of fees.
Saturday’s activities kick off at 9 a.m. and include activities exploring a variety of topics, including bird banding, stream ecology, a scavenger hunt, orienteering and animal tracking.
Several morning hikes will be offered, including hikes focused on insects, salamanders and geology.
After a break for lunch, participants can enjoy nature crafts, fossil casting, owl pellet dissection, as well as an introduction to reptiles and birds of prey.
Additional hikes will include some focused on butterflies, the Appalachian Trail and the Baa-tany Goat Project on Roan’s grassy balds.
Earth Fare will set up a trail mix tent for the enjoyment of rally attendees. There’s never a shortage of activities to interest kids.
“There are so many good options and it really depends on the particular interest and age of a kid,” Schubert said.
She has taken the lead on organizing the Junior Scavenger Hunt.
“This is a great activity for the younger kids who have relatively short legs and short attention spans,” Schubert said. “The kids
are given a checklist of naturally occurring objects to find in nature. We set out into the woodlands for a short walk along the Doe River and then visit a small open meadow.”
Along the way the kids use their senses — sight, smell, touch and hearing — to find objects on their lists.
“They might find a prickly fruit that has fallen from a tree, a smelly centipede, hear a woodpecker pecking, or see a bright yellow and black stripped butterfly,” Schubert said. “We search high and low. We look up into the trees, flip rocks in the creek, turn leaves over and search behind tree bark for critters of all types.”
After the hunt concludes, the group discusses their findings.
“We discuss their findings in as much detail as they like,” Schubert said. “It’s a hands-on activity that allows young kids to begin using basic observation skills without having to be bogged down by too much technical jargon. The kids can begin to see objects in nature that they hadn’t noticed before and begin to look at nature in more detail.”
Rally organizers are pleased with this year’s offerings.
“Some of the most sought-after activities are the bird banding and the salamander and baa-tany goat hike programs,” Schubert said.
“However, you can’t go wrong with any activity. Plus, a few new programs are added each year. There’s something for everyone, and all the programs are informative and exciting.”
Finally, the programs are also an investment in the future.
“At a young age, we stand a much greater chance at developing a
n appreciation for nature and thus an understanding of the natural environment,” Schubert said. “By understanding nature, we are more likely to protect it.”
She said that one of her favorite quotes comes from the African environmentalist, Baba Dioum, who said, “In the end, we will protect only what we love, we will love only what we understand, we will understand only what we are taught.”
Schubert keeps those principles in mind while helping with the rally each year.
“If we learn to protect the natural environment at an early age, then we stand a greater chance of protecting the very thing that sustains us and lets us experience healthier and happier lives,” Schubert said.
For more information, visit www.XtremeRoanAdventures.org or check out www.FriendsofRoanMtn.org.
To register for the event, visit www.xtremeroanadventures.org/2013-xra-registration/