On June 25, 2011, the National Wildlife Federation will sponsor The Great American Backyard Campout, encouraging families all over the country to spend the night outdoors. You don’t even need a backyard to do it – NWF suggests options such as parks, campgrounds, and even balconies.

Why camp? The best reason is that it gives you the opportunity to spend more time outdoors. Plus, it’s fun, and it’s an adventure. Do it on your own, or gather a group of friends, family or neighbors to join you. All generations can benefit from taking some time to connect with nature.

Does this sound good to you? If so, go find your tent and camping gear — or borrow some, or rent it from REI or your local outfitter — and start planning your night. Think about what you’ll need to bring – gear, food, activities, and so on. Even in your own backyard, pitching a tent, gazing at the stars, perhaps building a campfire, and otherwise being outdoors after dark can be a wonderful opportunity to do something different with your friends and family. The NWF’s website offers a number of tips on what to bring and what to do (including safety tips, recipes, songs, stories and games) while you’re camping. Visit http://online.nwf.org/site/PageNavigator/gabc_GetReady_landing

The website also offers a number of reasons why spending time outdoors is beneficial for your family. It says that children with regular experiences in the natural world have the following qualities.

More Creative: Kids who spend lots of time outdoors are more likely to be inventive, imaginative and creative while playing.

Better Grades: The healthy bodies and minds that come with outdoor play increase cognitive focus in school and yield measurably better grades.

Improved Eyesight: Recent studies find that children who spend time outdoors have less nearsightedness and less of a need for eyeglasses.

Better at Making Friends: Children playing together outdoors relate directly with one another, create games together, choose sides, and improve their people skills by learning the tools needed for compromise and negotiation.

Better Health: An hour of play a day is what doctors say is a basic tool in the effort to ward off childhood obesity and diabetes.

A Longer Lifespan: Doctors estimate that sedentary and obese children lose three to five years from their life expectancy.

If you wish, the National Wildlife Federation offers a fundraising aspect to this Great American Backyard Campout event. By collecting sponsors, you can raise money for NWF, a nonprofit organization that, among other things, helps children connect better with the outdoors through programs such as Wildlife Watch and Trees for the 21t Century. For details, visit http://online.nwf.org/site/PageNavigator/gabc_details_landing

Don’t know where to camp?
Check out the Massachusetts Camping Guide, available online for free at http://www.campmass.com/

Campsites listed for our area include:

Boston/Cape Cod KOA Kampground, 438 Plymouth Street, Middleboro (508-947-6435)
http://koa.com/campgrounds/boston/

Indianhead Resort, 1929 State Road (Route 3A), Plymouth (508-888-3688)
http://www.indianhead-resort.com/

Jellystone at Maple Park, 290 Glen Charlie Road, E. Wareham (508-295-4945)
http://www.mapleparkfamilycampground.com/

Pinewood Lodge Campground, 190 Pinewood Road, Plymouth (508-746-3548)

Homepage

Sandy Pond Campground, 834 Bourne Road, S. Plymouth (508-759-9336)
http://www.sandypond.com/

Shady Acres, 20 Shoestring Road, S. Carver (508-866-4040)
http://www.shadyacresinc.com/

Myles Standish State Forest, Cranberry Road, S. Carver (508-866-2526)
http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/mssf.htm

Wompatuck State Park, Union Street, Hingham (781-749-7160)
http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/womp.htm

Can’t Camp Out on June 25?
Consider NSRWA’s Overnight at Couch Beach on the North River, Saturday/Sunday, August 13/14. You bring your tent; we provide the food and kayaks! The event includes an on-land kayaking skills lesson, then on-the-water expeditions, plus a BBQ on the beach. Breakfast will be served in the morning, with an early morning paddle. Presented by Coastal Kayak Educators. The cost is: $65 per person or $55 per person in a group of 4 – non-members. Add $25 for NSRWA non-members. To sign up or for more details contact paula@nsrwa.org.

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, Correspondent
May 2011

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com.