Great American Backyard Campout Blends Outdoors, Family Fun and Science


By Danielle N. Lee Outdoor Afro Contributor and author of Urban Science Adventures! ©

Denene Millner and her family set up a tent

It’s summertime and the living is easy, especially if you’re a kid.  Schools out and fun is all that is on their hyperactive minds.  We adults still have jobs to attend, bills to pay and bellies to feed, but there’s no reason why we couldn’t be on the same page, at least for a single night. So, what’s the best way to enjoy the summer with your kiddos that’s fun, affordable, and engaging? Well, outside camping of course!  And even if you’re not big on ruffing it I think you could handle this one — camp out in your own backyard! On Saturday, June 25, 2011, the National Wildlife Federation is asking everyone to pitch a tent in your yard and participate in the The Great American Backyard Campout. It is a grassroots initiative to Leave No Child Indoors while also raising awareness and funds for more outdoor youth programs.  Families and communities are encouraged to spend time together and while you’re outside in the fresh air  why not explore nature (and science)!

So get your family and neighbors together and go camping – at a local campground, state or national park, or in your backyard. Being outdoors is a perfect time to connect to science. You can explore biology, conservation, ecology, astronomy, geology, geography, environmental science, and more.

COPUS – the Coalition of Public Understanding of Science – is encouraging everyone to participate in the Great American Backyard Campout and use that time to not only connect with family/neighbors but have fun exploring science, too.  Check out the blog post (link here) and read the whole list of recommended Citizen Science and Arts and Science activities.  Plus here’s one I overlooked: Waving at the International Space Station as it orbits over your night time sky! The International Space Station is visible in the sky, assuming the weather agrees, so you could actually keep an eye out for it while you tell campfire stories and eat s’mores. Visit the website http://www.isswave.org/ for details on how to plan your wave. You can also follow them on Twitter @twisst for a tweet when it’s visible from your skies.

Or if you’re ready to sign up right now, then go for it.  You can register your ‘camp site’ – your family, church or community event with the National Wildlife Federation Great American Backyard Campout website (link here).

Do you need to check your supply list? Well, you know Outdoor Afro has you covered.  Here is a handy-dandy list of Tent Camping Essentials for Outdoor Afros.  In the meantime, check in with us and let us know if you plan on participating and how you’ll be connecting to science while you’re under the stars. We have some prizes for Outdoor Afros who participate.


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