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June 21, 2018 3 minute READ

Spend the Night Under the Stars

tags At Home | Adventure | Inspiration
locations All

So, when was the last time you spent the night under the stars? Can you remember roasting marshmallows and making s’mores? What about spinning ghost stories by the glow of the campfire? If it’s hard to remember, then we’d like for you to mark your calendars for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Campout. Since 2005, the fourth Saturday in June has been celebrated with tents in backyards and a public campsites. Won’t you take the pledge?

"Exposing children to the wealth of experiences in the outdoors is essential to creating the next generation of environmental stewards..."

The NWF started a new tradition in 2005 aimed at getting youngsters – and their friends and parents – out of the house and under the stars. The Great American Campout is part of the NWF’s continuing mission to reignite interest in the outdoors. A backyard campout doesn’t require any special equipment, expensive tents, or hiking down trails; it just needs a little imagination and a commitment to, for one night, to turn off the screens and enjoy what you can discover right outside your backdoor.

According to research, kids play outside only half as much as they did 20 years ago, and by not having as much physical activity, childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. Studies show that children who engage in the outdoors show increases in concentration, creativity, and social skills. Outdoor time also decreases aggression and boosts performance in school.

Exposing children to the wealth of experiences in the outdoors is essential to creating the next generation of environmental stewards – those who will visit state and national parks and will enjoy and appreciate a hike to the balds on Roan Mountain to marvel at their expanse and the beauty of the Rhododendron blooms or travel to Glacier National Park to see firsthand the awesome force that nature can exert.

Get out in the woodsSpending the night under the stars is easy and anyone can do it almost anywhere. If you live in a large neighborhood, make it a happening – your next door neighbor could be a great yarn-spinner or an excellent “campfire” guitar player. Maybe another neighbor is an amateur astronomer, who can point out the constellations or take a look at the Orion Nebula (no telescope is needed for this one, just a set of moderately powerful binoculars).

Listen to the sounds of birds and insects and maybe ask the kids to imitate what they hear. Play cards – we once had a hilarious game of Crazy 8s at one of our campouts. With a little extra planning, everyone could participate in a scavenger hunt to find different leaves, pinecones, flowers, and other common items in the backyard. This link will take you to the NWF website’s Camp Activities page for more ideas.

Set up a tent using an inexpensive tarp, and sleeping bags can be made from blankets and sheets. You’ll definitely want to have some sort of sleeping pad to have a good experience sleeping out of doors – or a hammock is another option.

Make the night memorable and remember to take photos!

Some communities have public camping events marking the Great American Campout. Elk Knob State Park, located just outside of Boone, is hosting one on June 30. It is free, but pre-registration is required. They have several programs that are a part of the night including stargazing and wildlife interaction. 

Here are some other links to state or national parks in our communities that are worth a visit:

Follow this LINK for a checklist for your campout, including two easy-to-make recipes. Enjoy your night under the stars!

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