"I'm obsessed with getting kids outdoors," says science teacher Dick Jordan.
Jordan's obsession comes from 30 years as an educator, watching children shift from outside play and exploration to a world dominated by Xboxes, iPods, and cell phones—"addictive technological toys" as he calls them.
"Technology is great," he says. "But we are animals and we need that connection to the wild."
Citing American novelist and journalist Richard Louv's 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, in which Louv terms a dwindling American experience with the outside world as "nature-deficit disorder," Jordan's mono-maniacal focus is on pushing kids out the door—the first step toward rekindling a love of being outside.
Jordan, a teacher at Timberline Junior High, started an ecology club in 1999 aimed at connecting outdoor clubs with outreach events. In 2009, he started Outside Day, with the first event launching in March of that year. The goal of Outside Day was about just that: getting kids to connect with nature via river exploration (fly fishing, water quality testing), a biodiversity challenge, performances, food and more. Jordan and team pulled together junior high kids and elementary schools. Friday, March 4, will mark the third annual Outside Day.
Now Jordan is taking a campfire-focused route, launching his first Campfire Connection event, something he hopes to make a regular part of his outreach efforts.
"The campfire experience is one that’s really disappearing. If you don’t have the camping gear and stuff, it’s not something that people normally do. We’ve spent 90 percent of our history around campfires," says Jordan. "I’d like it to be an annual event, if not biannual."
Tonight's event includes a visit from local award-winning storyteller Joy Steiner, a firefighter from BLM, a forester from the U.S. Forest Service, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist, and the Spring Shores Marina State Park manager. The Idaho Free Trappers will be in attendance, complete with 17th century trapping garb, music and stories.
Included in the fee—$4 for kids, $6 for parents—is a potato soup meal, bread from Zeppole and homemade cookies. Bring your own seat for the roaring fire at Spring Shores Marina at Lucky Peak Reservoir. "Doors" open Thursday, Jan. 27, at 6 p.m.