A few kids choose nature over staring at screens

March 18, 2019

JONESBORO, Ark. — Ten-year-old Alycia Wadkins is unlike other children her age, because she would rather spend time away from screens.

“It’s not right,” she said about the amount of time children her age spend glued to their phone, tablet, computer and video game screens. “You need family time and to enjoy nature.”

She spent a recent Saturday morning learning about how to make her own fishing bait, how to knot a line, how to cast a line, where to position oneself and the biology of fish from Lee Elkins, who has been an education program specialist at Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center since it opened in 2004. Elkins has been with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for 28 years, The Jonesboro Sun reported.

Elkins said it warmed her heart to hear a 10-year-old say such a thing about wanting to spend more time outside than inside with a bright, colorized screen.

“They’ve done something right,” Elkins said about Dustin and Olivia Wadkins’ parenting of Alycia and her three younger siblings, Dustin, 6, Capri, 5, and Sophie, 4.

Her 6-year-old brother Dustin said if he was not attending the classroom tutorial of fishing basics, he would be out fishing, or playing basketball or soccer.

Their dad, Dustin Sr., said he thought the event was outside and his children would get a chance to fish. He seemed disappointed but still looked to be having a fun time watching his kids take interest in what Elkins was teaching.

Dustin said he had fun at the classroom tutorial and would tell his friends at school about it.

“I’d tell them I made fish bait, and I’d tell them they’d get badges,” he said.

Alycia said if not for the time spent at the nature center, the family would be fishing or sitting by a bonfire.

They also go to Hijinx Family Entertainment Center. She loves it there, too.

Her 5-year-old sister Capri said she likes going to the park, but not in the morning.

“I don’t get up in the morning,” Capri said.

She said she likes watching TV and movies but had a lot of fun learning about fishing and making bream — a type of fish bait. It is made using white flour, yellow cornmeal and sugar. It also requires a liquid. The fishing class used Mountain Lightning — an off-brand version of Mountain Dew.

Olivia Wadkins said she limits the screen time her children spend.

“We let them on the tablet,” she said. “But they soon start to get moody.”

Olivia said they love spending time outdoors.

Elkins showed how happy she was about teaching children like the Wadkins because she and her colleagues from the nature center want to see children spending time outdoors.

“It’s very rewarding to see kids excited about what they’re learning outside,” she said.