Self, left, a member of Buck Gardner Calls’ Pro Staff,
coaches 8-year-old Caleb Calhoun of Brookfield on the basics
of using a duck call during the
Land Learning Founda-tion’s Youth Game Fair on Aug. 25.
More than 30 conservation organiza-tions participated in the
and startled kids gasp and step back. Charlie Callaway of the Missouri
Trappers Association calmly stands and raises his hand, revealing
that the smooth metal jaws of a leghold trap have indeed snapped
shut around his fingers.
For most of the
kids attending the Youth Game Fair at the Land Learning Foundation
near Triplett, it’s
the first time they’ve seen
how a leghold trap operates. For some of them, it’s the first
time they’ve ever seen a trap of any kind.
The dramatic finale
to Charlie’s trapping demonstration provides
a convincing teaching moment, however. While he can’t pull
his fingers from the trap, they are not broken, nor are they
bleeding. The demonstration challenges the kids’ perceptions
of what trapping is and what role it plays in modern wildlife
management. Many stay to ask Charlie more questions after the
demonstration is over.
Since 2003, the
Land Learning Foundation has worked to connect youth to the outdoors.
Its goals include teaching kids about agriculture, wetlands, conservation
and habitat restoration, and sharing the enjoyment of traditional
outdoor recreational pursuits such as hunting, fishing and trapping.Through
its programs, many of which are free, nearly 2,000 kids will experience
the outdoors this year thanks to the foundation, which was the vision
of two brothers, Bryce and Brad Evans of Marshall, both avid outdoorsmen.
Callaway, conservation director for the Missouri Trappers Association,
identifies a river otter pelt.t
watching the ranks of hunters and anglers decline, the Evans brothers
wanted to find a way to increase access and opportunity for youth
who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to enjoy the outdoors.
2005, they built a facility on the banks of Dean Lake, north
of Triplett in Chariton County. A lodge and six cabins, served by
Cooperative, provide a venue for most of the foundation’s
challenge is just getting kids here the first time,” says
Marshall Murphy, the nonprofit foundation’s director. “First
impressions are everything, and kids are no exception
to that rule. If we get them here and they have a positive
experience, they often are eager to come back.”
group’s largest free event, the Youth Game Fair,
drew nearly 750 kids in August. More than 100 volunteers
and 30 conservation groups introduced kids to outdoor
activities including trapping, archery, fishing, fly-tying,
duck calling, knifemaking, black powder and trap shooting.
|Archery was one of the more popular activities at the Youth Game
were contagious, as arrows hit targets, shots broke
clay pigeons and casts from fly rods successfully
found their mark.
“We try to
reach kids who aren’t already
exposed to hunting and fishing and give them a chance to try as
many outdoor activities as we can muster,” Marshall says. “We
combine the recreation with a conservation message.”
Walker of Bevier says the game fair provided her sons with a
fun-filled day of new experiences.
enjoyed the knifemaking and shooting the shotguns,” she
says. “If you’re going to keep
these activities around, you’re going
to have to teach them because a lot of parents
have a background in the outdoors.”
the rest of the year, the Land Learning Foundation
offers more in-depth programming. Waterfowl
management and wetland ecology are popular topics
in Chariton County, which has a large number of
also hosts camps for youth organizations, including 4-H, FFA and
others, offering an outdoor curriculum to supplement each group’s
“We want to teach kids how to think, not what to
think, about conservation and hunting issues,” says
Bryce. “We think
asking questions is a good thing.”
The Missouri 4-H Shooting Sports program provided instructors
for the rifle shooting at the Youth Game Fair.
adds that the foundation emphasizes learning
to love nature through nurture, a philosophy
that marries well with a recent partnership with
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri
in a new mentoring program called “Pass It On.”
Once funded, the
two-part program will include one-on-one and group mentoring of 700 at-risk
youth. The Missouri Department of Economic Development, through its Youth
Opportunities Program, approved more than $214,000 in tax credits
for the foundation to fund the program.
“If you show
kids attention, whatever environment they get that attention in they
usually learn to love,” Marshall says. “We’ll
bring kids and their mentors here
for a monthly outdoor activity and try to get them out of their comfort
zones. If you do that, they’ll
look to each other for support and
begin to bond.”
|Young and old alike were drawn to a Ducks Unlimited display of
According to Georgalu
Swoboda, executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of
Central Missouri, “Pass It On” represents
a new arena for working with at-risk
kids. “It’s good to
see new organizations that have
a new angle of working with kids and providing an outdoor experience,” she
really looking forward to working
For the Evans family,
Brad sums up how it feels to ensure that outdoor
traditions are passed onto future generations.
“The pay is terrible,
but the rewards are great.”
Visit www.landlearning.org to
learn more about the Land Learning Foundation. To inquire about
making a donation eligible for the foundation’s
Youth Opportunities Program tax credits, contact Marshall Murphy or
Marsha Leimkuehler at (660) 634-2240 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.