By: Jacob Tumminello
Venture Outdoors firmly believes that everyone belongs outdoors including young adventurers. To create a program specifically designed for children, Venture Outdoors introduced Tyke Hikes, nature walks for children up to age five and their caregivers. These walks create a relaxed learning environment and include activities, snacks, and interesting facts about the location.
Venture Outdoors categorizes activities based on difficulty, and Tyke Hike programs are considered relaxed – a category requiring no prior experience. Trail locations are mapped out ahead of time to ensure an easy walk for children. Most of these locations are scheduled within Pittsburgh and Allegheny County parks. Weather conditions are checked in advance and trails that include shelter are chosen when possible in case of sudden storms.
Tyke Hike trails are stroller-friendly though strollers must be able to handle off-road conditions. Trip Leaders also ensure that bathrooms are available on these trails along with limited uphill treks and plenty of space for participants to wander. A dedicated staff of enthusiastic Trip Leaders specializing in working with children assist on each trip. Among the Tyke Hike staff for 2017 is Emily Brower, an intern from the University of Pittsburgh studying Sociology and History. For Emily, the experience isn’t just rewarding for the children, but for the staff as well. “I love teaching children, but they teach us so much as well,” said Emily. “Working with Tyke Hikes has provided me with an opportunity to gain experience not only educating but also learning about children. It’s been extremely rewarding”
The programs typically include different themes based on the learning activity or location for the day. Emily recalls her first trips and how they incorporated these themes to teach. “The first hike of the year is Easter themed, but my first Tyke Hike was “Water, Water, Everywhere”. We explored the Highland Park reservoir to teach what the park offers the city. We made fishing pole crafts to teach about the water and gave out snacks afterward.”
Trip Leaders emphasize outdoor safety and keeping the environment clean. They teach children what items are necessary for different kinds of outdoor activities and to “leave no trace”. Much of the information distributed is designed to inform both child and adult participants.
Emily also discussed her expectations for the remainder of the season and an upcoming Tyke Hike she will be leading. “I’m excited to continue working with the children and to get them outside as much as possible! On August 30, I will be leading my first Tyke Hike which is a tour of PNC Park. The kids will get to learn a lot about the ballpark and Pittsburgh’s baseball history. As a baseball fan myself, I’m super excited.”
Tyke Hikes allow Venture Outdoors to teach children of all ages about the environment while exploring the outdoors and interacting with others. Whether working with a group of children or looking for an opportunity to spend time with family members outdoors, Tyke Hikes are the perfect outing!