All communities rely on teaching and mentoring young members for the future success of the community. Tramping clubs and outdoor groups are no different. This page is a summary of the Outdoor Community blog post on Karen Griffiths highly successful Take a Kid Tramping program, run for the New Plymouth Tramping Club. The program invites kids and parents on specific “Take a kid tramping” trips, facilitated by the NPTC. At the end of 2017, over 500 kids have been through the program. Here we take a look at the key bits of info which have helped make the program a success.
Establishing the program
The first step is to convince the club committee that the program is worth investing club energy into. Any such program will need a champion to lead it, but also a degree of commitment from the club to be a long term success. Such commitment would involve promotion on the clubs website, inclusion within the club’s trip calendar and possibly other resources such as access to gear hire or club assets to participants who may not (yet) be club members.
There also needs to be buy-in from the club membership; there will need to be people to help lead and assist on trips. Canvas support for the program before you get too carried away. You’ll likely know club members with kids/grand kids, or those who enjoy children. Chat to them about being involved in the program; often it is as much fun for the adults as it is for the kids!
Preparing the resources
The main aim to preparation, is to ensure as many barriers from participation as possible are removed.
Many participants won’t have access to a complete set of tramping gear, so ensuring there is sufficient gear to loan is vital. Consider asking club members to agree to loan old bits of gear, or even encourage donations to a club gear pool. Funding may be available from local sources, such as grants from councils, community groups or companies to help buy gear. Don’t be afraid to consider approaching local outdoor stores for sponsorship. The local op-shop will likely be a great source of suitable outdoor attire. It won’t be the latest stuff, but there’s usually plenty of woollen or fleece clothing at very cheap prices.
A central place for storing the loan gear is very important. It also forms an obvious meeting point for the trip departures; participants can then be issued any gear they don’t have for the trip. Whereever the gear is stored, it needs to be easily accessible for trip leaders. The shed/garage of a club member involved in the program is an obvious choice.
Most clubs will already have gear lists and other tramping resources; make sure these are readily available for participants.
Planning a regular ‘Take a kid tramping’ program will help inspire commitment in the club and among the membership to the program. Find a range of trips, suitable for all ages; from babies in carriers, through to pre-teens, and schedule these in when you do your normal club trip program planning. Rather than trying to encourage kids/families on normal club trips, program trips where kids and families are the focus of the trip.
Trips with a specific destination or purpose are much more likely to engage children, than a straight out walk in the mountains. Trips on well established tracks make group management much easier, when dealing with less experienced folks.
Start out small; 1 or 2 trips a quarter, and see what response you get, before spending too much energy and time on a very frequent program. Small trips are easier to manage, and more likely to encourage people to give it a try than a normal paced ‘adult’ trip.
As well as publicity through your existing club networks, make up a few posters and get them around town. Outdoor shops, sporting stores, the library, council buildings, community halls etc. Investigate local newspapers; they will often run community ads for free, or even better, interview you about the program for a story in the paper. Local councils or tourism groups often have a ‘whats on’ calendar of some description. Get you ads out in lots of places in the community where kids and parents go.
Its important to understand that participants won’t be club members (at least at first) so ensure your club rules allow for non-members on club trips. If in doubt, chat with your club committee.
Schools may be worth approaching, but they are often tricky to get a contact on the staff. Trying via members or contacts who have kids at the school may be a worthwhile approach.
Local youth programs are another place to find kids who might benefit from tramping experiences.
Running the trips
There are a number of extra considerations for offering trips to families, who are non-members of your club and may have limited tramping experience. Ensure that there are clear expectations with participants before the trip, on what to bring, what the day will involve, and what fitness will be required.
Many families are a little hectic, keep your information as succinct and clear as possible. Parents may really appreciate just being able to turn up, and find out more of the trip specifics on the day.
Gear checks and pre-trip briefings need to be a little more thorough than to experienced club members. Some of the obvious things like ‘dont go ahead of the leader, or behind the tail end charlie’ aren’t that obvious to new trampers. Kids will need a degree of supervision, so ensure parents are aware that the responsibility lies with them.
Kids love learning, so make the trips all about new skills and knowledge. Slow down, and take the opportunity to talk about that tree, or that local legend or old tramping story. Plenty of breaks and activities (besides walking) will keep the kids engaged and interested. It also helps with time to give them more snacks to keep the energy levels up.
Overnight trips offer more time to teach about bush culture this is the time to instill good backcountry etiquette; keeping boots outside, huts cleaner than you found them, hut books filled out etc etc. Along with the ‘what’ of etiquette, don’t forget to explain the ‘why’.