Parents used to make sure their kids knew how to swim, bike, use a compass, catch and clean fish, and safely build, light, maintain and douse a campfire. Then the pace of life accelerated, people grew more inclined to cocoon at home than hike into the woods, fresh fish became more readily available at the local market, and GPS units supplanted the compass. And many of us started forgetting to teach our kids the fundamentals.
Where can you turn for resources? While books, DVDs and websites preserve a wealth of institutional knowledge regarding these skills, there are also actual people out there who can help you teach your kids in the field - or, in the case of swimming, in the water.
SIX OLD SKILLS KIDS SHOULD KNOW
How to swim
There are more than 15,000 lakes and some 13,500 navigable river miles in Wisconsin. Being comfortable and competent in water reduces the risks of wading, boating, fishing and late-night skinny-dipping. Not that your kids would ever do that.
Madison School & Community Recreation offers the American Red Cross swimming curriculum. MSCR aquatics specialist Dianne Lahey explains that options include parent-child classes for ages six months to four years, and preschool classes (without parents) for kids three years and older. These early classes emphasize the importance of adult supervision and asking permission before entering the water, while exploring buoyancy and submersion, rudimentary front and back strokes, and movement in the water.
Ages five and up proceed through a progression of six class levels in which students learn to tread water, retrieve submerged objects, jump into deep water, develop and refine strokes with synchronized breathing, execute flip turns and swim for longer distances.
MSCR swimming courses cost $28 each, and are offered year-round at the four Madison high school pools and the Lapham Elementary pool, with additional summer classes at Verona's Goodman Aquatics Center. See or contact John Rider (608-663-8874, firstname.lastname@example.org) or Robbie Webber (608-233-1390, email@example.com).
How to leave no trace
Many of us are careless in the outdoors, and the consequences of that despoil habitat - as well as the experience for future visitors to the trail or campsite.
REI's Madison store offers a free program called PEAK (Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids). Developed in collaboration with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, PEAK strives to impart respect for flora and fauna, staying on trails and packing out whatever you take with you, including trash.
"I'll tailor it to whatever the group wants," says REI-Madison outreach specialist Brandt Christopherson. Among the options: how to set up a low-impact campsite, how to cook, and best practices for building a campfire.
To schedule a PEAK program at REI or reserve the program's PEAK Pack, contact Christopherson at 608-833-6680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to use a map and compass
GPS receivers are great, but batteries die, small electronics fry out, and even the niftiest gizmos can lose a fight with the Oops Gene that leads expensive toys to jump to their deaths from high cliffs or into deep waters.
"Land Navigation Using Map & Compass" is scheduled for Aug. 28-30 at Treehaven, the UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources education and conference center near Tomahawk. Designed for adults and older youths, the workshop includes classroom instruction and outdoor activities. Meals and lodging are included in the $175 package, with a commuter option of $100 including two meals but no lodging. See email@example.com.
How to fish
Wisconsin, including the Yahara River and its chain of lakes, is home to bluegill, walleye and other species that are as delicious as they are nutritious. Learning how to fish in your youth pays off with a lifetime of piscine abundance.
Theresa Stabo, director of the DNR's Aquatic Resources Education Program, directs parents to dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/news/Events.html) includes family-friendly primers on edible and medicinal flora, campfire cooking, compass fundamentals and fishing basics.
The intent of the state park system's new "Get Outdoors! Wisconsin" initiative (dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/eek/index.htm).