Participation in Select Nature-based Recreational Activities by Rural Mississippi Youth

Recruitment and retention of future conservationists are key issues for many natural resources agencies and organizations. Engaging chil-

dren in nature-based recreation may contribute to their future participation as adults. Because rural settings and rural cultures can support outdoor recreational engagement for youth, we investigated nature-based recreational habits of rural children through a convenience survey of 608 fifth grade students in eight northeastern Mississippi public and private schools across four counties. Survey results indicate fishing and hunting were the most common outdoor pursuits among the respondents. Camping in recreational vehicles and canoeing or kayaking received the least participation of the eight activities included on the survey instrument. Despite access afforded by the rural environment, lack of opportunity prevented greater involvement by children in some of the outdoor activities on the survey. Engagement in recreational activities varied significantly among gender and racial groups, with greater participation reported by white children and male children of all surveyed races. The study's rural setting was not indicative of substantive engagement in the focal nature-based recreational activities by all segments of the local youth population. Natural resources organizations concerned with recruitment and retention of citizens who support nature-based recreation should consider implementation of actions that intentionally target youth in demographically-diverse rural areas as well as those in often-targeted urban areas.

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