‘Focus on Forever’ begins with lessons well taught
The concept of teaching someone new to the outdoors a few handy skills — from outdoor cooking to bird watching and wildflower identification to hunting and fishing — isn’t new.
What’s new is teaching someone how to teach those skills.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Pheasants Forever are co-sponsoring a “Focus on Forever” conference June 7-9 in Estes Park that will teach the best practices for providing outdoor skills education.
It’s teachers teaching teachers, offering in-depth training to engaged volunteers in how to communicate skills such as archery, cast-iron cooking, shooting, canoeing, kayaking and more.
Sessions also will focus on teaching methods that make sure students are engaged, challenged and retaining outdoor skills for lifelong enjoyment.
The conference isn’t to help you improve your Dutch oven skills or make you a better bowhunter or show you how to paddle a canoe in a straight line.
It’s to teach you and other volunteers passionate about the outdoors how to share the passion with someone else.
The conference is tapping as many outdoor- and conservation-oriented groups as possible, said Ron Wissick of Pheasants Forever.
“We want volunteers from all over to attend the workshop because in the end, it benefits all of us,” Wissick said. “We all seem to have our own mission but at the end of the day we all have to be pulling in the same direction, that of getting more kids and their families in the outdoors.”
It’s a big step from knowing a skill to transferring that knowledge to someone else, said Parks and Wildlife partnership coordinator Allison Kincaid.
“One thing for sure is there is a lot of passion out there but not a lot of teaching experience,” Kincaid said. “This conference is a really good way to harness the passion and to show volunteers how to teach and to teach them a few new skills and how to run an outdoor program.”
Wissick said the conference emphasizes “the key concept that these volunteers can provide a lot of opportunity at the grassroots and community level.
“By focusing our efforts, all of sudden we are able to put together a lot of mentoring for people who want to get outdoors but don’t have the opportunity to do so,” he said.
The “Focus on Forever” concept isn’t that far off from the Outdoor Heritage Day program in Palisade developed several years ago by district wildlife manager Frank McGee of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The conference is a step toward incorporating traditional hook-and-bullet activities with other groups and activities that also engage people in the outdoors.
“We want to do what we can to get more Coloradans outdoors,” Kincaid said. “Think outside the box and consider the entire umbrella of outdoor recreation, from outdoors cooking lessons and rock climbing to canoeing, wildflower identification and hiking.”
It’s also part of the still-developing mission of the new Parks and Wildlife, an agency that recognizes there have to be avenues to the outdoors for people who don’t hunt or fish.
Wissick said the conference truly is focused on the future.
“Our desire is to develop future leaders in conservation and the outdoors, people who have a clear idea of the outdoors and the land ethic of protecting the resources,” he said.
This will be Pheasants Forever’s sixth “Focus on Forever” conference, said Wissick, but the first with a state wildlife agency playing a major role.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been an amazing partner on this conference,” he said. “They are invested in promoting and talking to other partners and other key conservation groups and are sending staff to be trained.
“They are partners in every sense and I cannot say enough good about their role.”
More information about the “Focus on Forever” conference is available on the Pheasants Forever website, http://www.pheasantsforever.org.