Off the Map: Fayette County group promotes taking kids outdoors

Program partners with organizations, has between 30 and 80 participants

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FAYETTE COUNTY — A group of dedicated volunteers is working to make sure kids get plenty of time outdoors.

Take a Kid Outdoors, or TAKO as it is commonly known, started in 2006 after a meeting in the living room of Richard E. “Dick” Jensen of West Union. Jensen is considered the organization’s founder and is a passionate advocate of all things nature.

“We wanted to promote unstructured enjoyment of nature,” said Kata McCarville, treasurer of TAKO.

TAKO offers at least one event per month that engages kids in outdoor fun. The group has sponsored everything from ice fishing, archery and sledding to panning for gold, planting corn and creating art in the park.

“Nature has a very positive affect on us as human beings and we want to make sure kids have some relationship with the natural world,” McCarville said.

“It helps meet their physical and emotional needs,” added TAKO President Leif White. “And our programs encourage unstructured creativity outdoors.”

An important element of the programs is adult involvement.

“This is not just bringing a kid and leaving them for a fun program,” McCarville said. “We want the adults to enjoy and become more confident in doing things outdoors with their kids. We are growing the ability of adults too.”

TAKO events have become popular with mentoring groups for that very reason, White said.

“We provide them with safe outdoor group activities,” White said. “It is a natural partnership.”

TAKO also often collaborates with other organizations to develop the programs, including Fayette County Conservation, local 4-H groups, the Hawkeye Conservation Club, the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Club and Upper Iowa University.

“Our partners have some of the equipment and materials we need and we concentrate on getting people there,” White said.

In the past, programs have had as many as 80 participants, but typically average about 30. They run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends and include a free lunch, with all costs covered by TAKO.

“We have so much fun with it,” said McCarville, who favors programs about water and rocks based on her training as a geologist. “And of course there is always a learning element involved.”

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