Facebook in the Outdoors

This week’s blog from Jackie Sherry, Graduate Assistant with Water Conservation Office.

Technology restricts us from enjoying the outdoors.  It keeps children and adults inside looking at a screen instead of exploring the wonders of the nature.  I viewed technology as anti-nature until I read an article in the National Association for Interpretation magazine, Legacy.  The article describes how Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton, Ohio incorporates Facebook into their preschool program, Tike Hike.

During Tike Hike, parents and children explore their local ecosystem through hikes at different parks.  The hikes are designed to make children and parents feel comfortable in their local environment.  Sometimes fear are even conquered by holding “creepy crawlies” like wolf spiders.  The Tike Hike gives children and adults confidence to explore their own backyard or park.

Once participants leave the Tike Hike, what if they have questions when exploring the outdoors on their own?  How can they discover what type of plant species is in their backyard?  Is that snake slithering around their neighborhood venomous? How can the tikes  share a cool frog picture with the other tikes from Tike Hike?  When can the tikes get together for another hike?  Where can the tikes and their parents turn to for answers? Facebook.

The Tike Hike group created a closed Facebook group that allows the children and parents who participated in the program to stay connected even after the hike is over.  The Facebook group members are encouraged to post questions, comments, and pictures of adventures had on their own.  The group members also have access to a calendar, which provides information on upcoming events.

Several parents commented that the Facebook group serves as a:

  • Direct line to ask nature questions
  • Networking tool for children and adults to become closer with others in their community
  • Resource to find other outdoor programs

Tike HikesMetroParks states that since the creation of the Facebook page, attendance in the preschool program has increased significantly and even doubled at one of the parks.

So what does this mean for us at a Public Utility Department?  It means that Facebook is an important tool.  We can and should use Facebook to connect to our community, answer the public’s questions, and provide information about upcoming events.

At the Water Conservation Office, most often we present educational water related activities to k-12 classrooms.  We can encourage the teachers and students we visit to interact with us through our Facebook page (Lily Anne Phibian).  Teachers and students can ask us water questions, share how they have conserved water, post pictures of checking for leaks, and learn about upcoming events.

Besides classroom visits, we also host tours of the Drinking Water Treatment Plant and Water Reclamation Facilities.  Following in the footsteps of MetroParks, we could create a closed Facebook Group for anyone who goes on our tours.  In this group, we could encourage the members to ask questions about the tour, water conservation practices, or public utilities information in general.  We could also advertise for upcoming workshops and community events.

As stated in the Legacy article, Facebook and other technological tools are not the enemy of the outdoors, but rather the use is the enemy.  Facebook can be an environmental education tool.  It has to be used in the right way though, as a means of communication and for encouragement in environmental education.

Also, HAPPY WORLD TOILET DAY!

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