Summer may be winding down, but new programs hosted by Outdoor Recreation will keep Families outdoors.

ECO Kids discovery mornings are sure to draw the young ones out of the house this month.

Every Wednesday in September, children are invited to join in the fun. For an hour and a half each week beginning Sept. 5, they can have their own place to learn while their siblings run off to school. The setting is rather untraditional; they will be taught at parks on post. The program is targeted at children ages four and under.

The mastermind behind the idea is Outdoor Recreation's supervisory recreation specialist Lorraine Reimer of Oyster Bay, New York. She developed the program and will be implementing it.

In April, Reimer moved to Fort Jackson from Fort Sill, Oklahoma. While working at Fort Sill, she founded a similar initiative a year and a half ago.

"Children and parents really responded to the program," she said. "Because of the success I had there, I wanted to give it a try here at Jackson."

Her Fort Jackson boss, Brent Bookman, Outdoor Recreation director, thought it would be a great way to "help bring a new generation into the outdoors away from various electronic devices."

The ECO Kids will trek into nature and explore outdoor sites on post. This year, they will travel to Heise Pond Pavilion, Weston Lake, Semmes Lake, and Patriots Park.

The "curriculum" will follow a weekly theme, such as gardening, weather and wildlife. Bugs and healthy living will also be topics of discussion.

Crafts, coloring, kinetic activities and free play will all be included in the "lesson plans."

"The experience is designed to be educational, but hidden under a few layers of fun," Bookman said.

The mornings are completely free to Families, and everything needed for the activities will be included.

Reimer says they will introduce youngsters to the "wonders of the outdoors" and teach them how to "respect and care for the resources (nature) provides us." The program will expose the mysteries and beauty of nature, Bookman added, and will highlight sustainability practices.

It offers an opportunity for peer interaction and encourages kids to embark on outdoor adventures from a young age. That's important, Reimer said, so kids "are not afraid of exploring, digging in dirt and discovering what shares this planet with us."

Discovery mornings also introduce parents to some of the outdoor destinations here at Fort Jackson.

"We want to encourage parents to come out to locations they may not know about and educate them on how they can use these resources in their recreational outdoor pursuits," Reimer said. "We want to get to know our community and start building a program that will inspire patrons of all ages to get outdoors."

The timing of the program fits in squarely with back-to-school season.

"Often times, this is the time when big brother or big sister goes back to school and parents are scrambling for something to do with their little guys," Reimer said. "This is a great opportunity for parents to get their little ones out, discover some new areas on post and get socialization time."
Little ones won't be alone in the excitement this fall. Outdoor Recreation is also launching a beginner's archery class in October. Form, shooting fundamentals and bow types will be taught.

"While we don't promise you will hit a bull's eye each time, we do promise you will have fun learning a new activity and meeting new people," Bookman said. All required equipment will be provided.

The first ever Family camp out is also on the horizon. Games, tent-pitching, and s'more-making are a few activities on the agenda.

In the meantime, Family camping trips are always an option, and the Marion Street Station has equipment available to loan, they said.