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OYB as an Outdoor Rec Program?
February 01, 2010

The MMBA Show was interesting. I like throwing a booth a few times a year -- gets me outta the house. I got an Inspiration at this show. I'm starting to think that books aren't where it's at. Books were helpful to me as a kid, and have been hugely helpful to me throughout my whole life, but in general the peoples don't seem into them.

Going back to first things: what am I trying to do? I want to promote the small, indie, local, interconnected stuff...the sustainable ways of doing things so that folks can have good living right where they are. I want to remind folks of the cultural roots of things. We don't bike and ski for fitness. We do it because they're Be Here Now. Fitness is a side effect. My emergency flag popped up when I saw that nearly all the outdoor activity books out there are how-to/fix-a-flat/directories. The "Why?" books of the 1970's are gone.

Ah, but Books and Culture don't HAVE to go together. Sure, it's weird that so many people don't read today, in that old, open, gungho edge-pushing way. (They can read, but it's called postliteracy -- reading for work or what you already know, in a way.) But what can ya do? In short, I gotta go with what works. There're other ways to get a "reading."

How did I really first get connected to outdoor activities? ...I saw older people and relatives doing them. I was taken along and shown things.

Specifically, one big huge thing was when our local 5th Graders all went Winter Camping one weekend! Yeah, our public school district for DECADES had a Winter Camping Trip for EVERYONE. They went to Yankee Springs and stayed in cabins and were shown some things. I remember Ron Bacon started it all. And he was the first Guide on those weekends. We stayed in cabins -- my first group kids-camp experience. Then Ron showed us: snowshoeing, XC skiing, ice-fishing (peering thru a hole in the ice at the green world below), ID'ing animal tracks in snow, fur trapping (we made live-catch mouse traps). I remember getting Big Eyes. (This was also when "Jeremiah Johnson" was a new movie. And "Centennial" was a TV series.)

5th Graders have a lot of energy. (Understatement?) They're just getting going -- their bodies and brains are exploding. I remember wondering, What's worth doing in this here world? I had a lot of curiosity energy. But it hadn't settled on anything. The outdoor skills I was learning seemed like a good key to things to do Out in the World. So I started doing them.

I think that Ron also pushed the Phys Ed program to include extra-diverse Mandatories like archery, bb-gun marksmanship, wrestling, gymnastics and judo. EVERYONE learned the fundamentals of all these things. They're all gone now, but it was cool while they were there. (I've heard that archery lingers on in places.)

At the MMBA Show the mtbike champ Dave Wiens told about his involvement in a new high school sport set-up called NICA, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. It's starting mtbike racing leagues for High-Schoolers. They're setting up easy venues -- maybe on the cross country running courses. This would be an official way to get kids turned on to the Big Freedom Machine in a safe and gungho setting. They can then take it to the road, to the next level, to Everyday Life Biking, after school (though road safety would likely be part of the training). Now catch this: lots of kids have a gradual physical development curve that makes them sub-prime for the ballsports and other rarified, non life-activity sports. If they're not rolling fast by age 7 or so, they're off the back. But by middle school most kids are booming physically and the remainder take off in highschool (a few wait even longer). XC running has long been a sport with a low entry bar -- yet progress there is inclined to skinniness, a particular body type which rules out the masses and which even involves imbalances. A mtbiking youth league offers similar accessibility, but with a greater range of types able to show potential and more skills being developed.

So there's that.

And, in fact, the first guy who came up to my table at the show said he was trying to start Outdoor Ed programs in public schools and did I know anything that might help him...

Basically, maybe I should become a local Outdoor Rec organizer/instructor dude.

Dave Wiens is from Colorado. They already have youth outdoor programs there. Up North in Michigan there are several really good HS XC ski programs. What's Mid-Michigan got?

I could see showing kids (and adults?) the traditional range of Outdoor Sport, plus Sustainability Skills, plus Newstyle Outdoor activities. People need to cover their bases, or at least have awareness of them, before they even begin to consider specializing. To me mtbiking and xc skiing don't stand alone. It's all about cross-everything. Especially in Michigan. We have four rock solid, hugely distinct seasons...and activities that fit each one.

Now, there are separate classes offered in all these activities. But Integration is what it needs. At least an Intro Program. Well, there's probably something out there already that I could just plug into. An "Outing Camp" of some kind.

Ron Bacon lives just down the block! He's just as energized as ever. I need to go talk to him about this some more.

I don't have to give up on the OYB website and Big Picture mission.

I've been trying to push the Local Outing Club thing on a diversely-applied national scale -- maybe it's time for me to go local.

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