Environment America Blog

A father’s guide for conservation through outdoor fun

By Russell Bassett
Clean Water Digital Campaigner

This Father’s Day we’re celebrating the many fathers who instilled an appreciation for the great outdoors — specifically a respect for clean water — in their children by taking them hiking, camping, canoeing, fishing, or just swimming in the local watering hole.

There is a considerable amount of scientific evidence that getting outside and playing in nature has significant health benefits. The documented benefits of outdoor play include improved vision, increased attention span, reduced stress, increased levels of Vitamin D, and stimulation of creativity, among others.

In his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” author Richard Louv makes the case that the health of our children is inseparable from the health of the Earth. His writing is peppered throughout with stories of his own children. He writes, “We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”

Another important reason for getting kids outside is fostering a conservation ethic at a young age. The more children connect with the outdoors and local waterways, the more likely they are to respect and value wild places — creating the next generation of environmental stewards.

Here a few simple tips for fathers wanting to connect their children with local waterways:

  • When hiking near or playing in a stream, rocks can be a ton of fun. They can be skipped across the surface, walked across, or piled up. Turning over larger rocks to see the crawdads and aquatic insects underneath makes for excellent teaching moments about the life cycle of riverine creatures. Many of us built make-shift dams using rocks growing up, which can be fun, but please be sure to tear them down when you leave so as to ensure fish have passage.
  • Many wildlife depend on our waterways such as osprey, beavers, and blue heron. Pointing out these animals to children can help them appreciate the natural world.
  • For older children, snorkeling gear will open up an entire new world they wouldn’t normally see. There’s nothing quite like swimming with fish from their perspective.
  • Many conservationists gained their appreciation for nature with a fishing rod in their hands. Fathers fishing with their children is a great way to strengthen family bonds.
  • River cleanups, invasive species removal, trail improvement projects, and other volunteer opportunities provide a way for children to give back to the resource while encouraging a volunteer work ethic.

We would love to hear your stories about being outside with your father, or if you’re a father, with your children. Please share your stories, photos and videos on social media using the hashtag #cleanwaterdad. Check out this video of our own Kim Stevens and her father sharing their memories of fishing together. Many, many thanks to all the clean water dads out there, and happy Father’s Day.