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"Into the Outdoors," our television program that encourages grade school and middle school students to enjoy outdoor experiences, is riding the crest of the airwaves. The program is a hit with kids and adults alike. In its first broadcast year, the show has earned an Emmy award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for Outstanding Achievement for Children's Programming – Children's or Teen Series.
Last year, viewers came along as hosts Annie and Henry showed it was cool and fun to learn outdoor skills, explain how nature works and try hands-on craft projects. The show traveled by plane above Wisconsin to track wolf packs, dug underground to watch hibernating bears, took a kayak trip, trained bird dogs, dug for salamanders in the forest duff and rounded up geese.
This TV season, viewers will go dog sledding, visit frozen waterfalls, and tag along as the show investigates porcupines and tundra swans, whoops it up with cranes, canoes the Horicon Marsh, gathers wild rice, visits a butterfly garden and crawls the rocks looking for wild rattlesnakes. The number of story segments per show will be reduced from four to three this year, but each segment is longer.
"We found we could explain natural resources topics geared for kids more completely by adding a little more time to each segment and cutting the number of segments," explains educator Joel Stone, the DNR project manager for Into the Outdoors.
"This year we also are featuring more stories told from a kid's point of view," Stone adds. "There's also more information in some of the stories about careers in natural resources, such as fish disease specialists, forest technicians and hydrologists."
The show's most popular features will continue. Annie and Henry will return this year, and chat by computer in the beginning of each show to take viewers along on the stories of the day. Teen-aged Mac will continue explaining scientific concepts, and Henry's younger sister, Patsy, will play reporter by sharing interesting news about nature and the environment. Two new characters, Karena and Maggie have joined the cast.
Brief newsy or humorous items will still be interspersed between each segment to keep the pace lively and provide young viewers with lots of interesting information.
Two adults also are back – Richard the naturalist and Amelia, who shows children how to make fun things using nature as a theme, such as paper, frog origami or leaf-printed T-shirts.
The Department of Natural Resources and its partner Discover Wisconsin Productions will also encourage kids to get outdoors and learn outdoor skills by co-sponsoring several Into the Outdoors Adventure Days. Last year, the program took part in Ducks Unlimited's Great Outdoors Expo in Oshkosh in August and sponsored a skills day at the Wehr Nature Center in Franklin in October. At Wehr, free activities for the whole family included rock climbing, bird watching, archery, casting, shooting BB guns, canoeing and outdoor crafts. Stars from "Into the Outdoors" joined in the fun.
"The adventure days give kids a chance to actually try outdoor activities, which is especially important for urban children who often have fewer opportunities to get out and enjoy nature," Stone says.
As always, kids can find out more about show topics online through two websites:
Environmental Education for Kids! (EEK!), the DNR's award-winning site for children and teachers. EEK! features a special section where TV show viewers can "Go Deep Into the Outdoors" to find more information on stories that have aired.
Into the Outdoors, a Discover Wisconsin Productions website supporting the television series. This site offers more information on the series including its stars.
Air times have changed in some of the television markets broadcasting "Into the Outdoors." Start your weekend early by joining us before you gear up for an outdoor adventure.
Wendy K. Weisensel is chief of the DNR's Education and Public Affairs Section.