At the annual Niobrara State Park Outdoor Educational Rendezvous, the scene looks like a huge school bus loading zone. The buses come from northeast Nebraska and even parts of South Dakota to bring kids to the rendezvous. It's a chance for kids to experience the outdoors.
"We have 48 different master naturalist programs out here today," Niobrara State Park Superintendent Mark Rettig said about the 8th annual event. He says the concept of this rendezvous had humble beginnings.
"It started with my personal bird book and a pair of binoculars with a fourth grade class, and it expanded from there. We started doing more programs, and it got so much interest that we had to throw it on to one day," Rettig said.
The rendezvous now hosts more than 13-hundred kids, and it's always held the first friday in May. The students walk from station to station in the park during the rendezvous, and learn about all sorts of fun outdoor activities. "They learn about fly-casting, knot tying, catching rainbow trout, they see live raptors, they can learn about a life-sized eagles nest, they make s'mores, there's Dutch oven cooking and we even have a replica of the boat that Lewis and Clark came up on the Missouri on," Rettig said.
As you can imagine, making the rendezvous event a reality takes a lot of work and a lot of planning, but those who do the work and the planning say it's all worth it when young people from around the region get to come here and experience nature and the great outdoors." 22;47:3
"This is my first year here but it's pretty amazing," retired Creighton, Nebraska teacher Mark Brogie said. He volunteered his time to teach kids about owls and ecology at the park. "We talked about great horned owls being a pheasant's best friend, because one of their main prey items are skunks. And skunks eat lots of eggs and even though owls feed on pheasants, if they feed on skunks which is a major enemy of egg, then they are actually saving pheasant numbers by having great horned owls around," Brogie said.
All of these experiences help kids to understand and appreciate the great outdoors.
"Lots of kids are plugged in this day of age you know.. they've got a cell phone in their hand," Rettig said. "Being outside makes a more rounded person. If we can influence a kid out here today to be back in tune with the great outdoors then I feel our mission has been accomplished."