Khloe Reid wasn’t sure what to think when she got a close look at the bluegill dangling from the end of her cane pole.
Fishing was a new experience for the 7-year-old Kansas City girl. She was among hundreds of inner-city kids who were were participating in the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Discover Nature Field Day for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City.
She, as were many of her friends, was new to the outdoors. And yes, that led to some perplexing moments.
“I’ve caught fish with my grandma before,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ve ever touched one.
“It’s kinda scary.”
When a helper convinced her that she was safe, Khloe reached out and timidly touched the panfish. Then a big smile spread across her face.
“I got one!” she shouted to her friends lining the banks on a lake at the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area near Lee’s Summit. “And it’s a big one, too.”
Scenes such as that one were what the Department of Conservation had in mind when it set up its Discover Nature Field Day week for the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Introducing kids to the outdoors — that’s what it was all about. From Tuesday through Friday, different clubs in Kansas City took turns getting their special day at the Reed Area.
They caught fish, paddled canoes, dipped nets into the water and then examined aquatic life, collected butterflies and other insects, learned about furbearers, amphibians and repitles, and got to use branches and other materials found in nature to build their own lean-to huts.
Yeah, this was a crash course in nature. And judging from the smiles and the excited talk, it was a big hit.
“This is the first time I’ve been fishing, but I’ve already caught one,” said Cavozion Williams, 5. “I’m going to catch a big one.
“It just takes patience.”
On a day when the temperature soared to the mid-90s, you would think that patience would be in short supply. But there were few kids sitting on the sideline Tuesday.
The excitement of participating in outdoor activities, something the inner-city kids seldom got to do, won out.
“A lot of these kids haven’t been exposed to the outdoors,” said Wendy Parrett, an education consultant for the Department of Conservation who coordinated the Boys and Girls Club week. “For some of them, it’s scary to get in a canoe for the first time or to touch a snake.
“But once they’ve done it, they gain a sense of accomplishment. They realize how fun the outdoors can be. And that’s what we’re after.”
Parrett estimated that 800 to 1,000 children took part, and they came a long way from the moment they rushed out of orange school buses to the time they loaded up to return.
The program was broken down into three age groups: kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, and sixth grade through high school.
The older children were able to participate in more advanced skills such as shooting airguns, archery and nature hikes.
“It’s so much fun to watch the kids take part in some of these things they hadn’t been exposed to before,” Parrett said. “We take a lot of these activities for granted.
“But when kids didn’t grow up with them, or really have much access to them, they aren’t aware of how much fun things like fishing or canoeing can be.
“That’s why programs like this are important.”
This is the ninth year the Discover Nature Field Day has been held for different Boys and Girls Clubs in the Kansas City area. Feedback has been positive.
“Every once in a while, we’ll get an email or a call from someone who got started in the outdoors through one of our programs,” Parrett said. “That makes you feel like you are accomplishing something.”