August 15, 2014 by and
Photography by Sarah Lemke

At Christy Christiansen’s dream job as Outdoor Education Specialist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, her “office” is as boundless as the prairie, lakes are more common than water coolers, and the open sky is the only
ceiling in sight.

While many folks get in a day-to-day rut at work, Christiansen says, “there is no typical day” in her position organizing and leading outdoor education programs and activities, many of which are especially tailored for families.

Masterful with a bow, gun, and paddle herself, Christiansen’s passion is exposing folks to Nebraska’s outdoor beauty and many fun activities. She’s especially focused on expanding efforts to attract more women, children, and families to learn and practice outdoors, with programs in shooting, bow hunting, archery, fishing, boat education, and aquatics. Kids also study the natural world itself—animals, habitat, and tracking.

Christiansen knows that moms often make the primary decisions regarding how families spend their time.

“Usually, if mom keys in on an activity, and mom does something, the family is doing it too,” she says, emphasizing the significance of NGPC catering outdoor education specifically to women.

She highlights the importance of getting kids to connect
with nature and reap the benefits of uncovering previously untapped talents.

“I always say kids have developed NDD—Nature Deficit Disorder,” Christiansen says. “They need to get off the computer, off the couch, and out in nature.”

Christiansen stresses “outdoors skills are life skills,” which everyone benefits from in many ways. Besides equipping themselves with such an important bundle of abilities, she says, families also benefit from being able to do activities cooperatively.

“You can go out and watch a child’s soccer game or watch their basketball game, but to be out there with your son or daughter, hunting in a tree stand or hiking, it’s a whole other, higher level of engagement and togetherness,” she says.

Although she didn’t start hunting until she was 19, Christiansen’s father worked a second job as a taxidermist out of their home, so she was familiar with the art.

“We always camped and fished as a family, and I was always outdoors,” Christiansen says. “I learned to shoot a bow when
I was very young and taught archery as a Girl Scout camp
counselor in the summer.”

She says practicing and mastering outdoor activities is really empowering.

“There’s just something about outdoor skills that you won’t get from other sports,” says Christiansen. “You don’t have to be an athlete to be successful. Many people are surprised at how well they can shoot; that gives them an immediate boost of confidence. I swore I wasn’t really good at anything until I discovered hunting and shooting, and, of course, becoming an outdoor educator.”

Christiansen sees people all the time who arrive a novice and end up getting really committed and skilled.

“Bring a friend and just give it try,” Christiansen advises those who might be on the fence. “If nothing else, you’ve had an experience, and you may even uncover a real talent and love for a new activity.”

Visit outdoornebraska.ne.gov/education to learn more about Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s outdoor education workshops, programs, and events.

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