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Panhandle Passages: Getting a Handle on the Outdoors

One way to get excited about being outdoors is to see the look in kids’ eyes when they catch a fish. If you really want to get excited, watch them catch a big fish with their bare hands.

A kid pulling a big carp from a water tank is a scene I’ve witnessed the past three Aprils at the annual Outdoor Discovery Program hosted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission at the Scottsbluff Trails West YMCA Camp.

More than 650 kids from seven Panhandle schools were bused into the camp on Tuesday or Wednesday for an intense day of outdoor exposure in nearly perfect weather. Fishing, kayaking, geocaching, shooting, archery, climbing and outdoor cooking were among the many learning experiences offered at the event. It’s no wonder teachers, students and parents rate the experience as one of the best field trip opportunities around. I certainly didn’t notice any kids missing their electronic devices.

Jealous? A similar opportunity can be enjoyed at the upcoming Fort Kearny Outdoor Expo.

Even though I was busy teaching kids about nature photography most of the time, I did manage to make a quick round to most of the stations. As you can tell from my slideshow, I shot most of my photos where kids were getting hands-on experience with the fish, reptiles and amphibians. Yes, the looks on those faces are priceless …

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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