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"The Hunger Games" inspires kids to get active

April 29, 2012 - Jodelle Greiner
I’m not sure if Suzanne Collins foresaw this side-effect or not, but “The Hunger Games” series has sparked kids to get off their butts and get outdoors!

“The Hunger Games”, “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” follow Katniss Everdeen as she’s forced to compete in a futuristic reality TV-type contest where 24 teenagers fight to the death for the amusement of the residents of the Capitol. As Katniss tries to outlast the other contestants in the “arena”, she relies on her skills with a bow and arrows, as well as her extensive knowledge of plants and animals to feed and protect herself.

According to a couple of articles on the Associated Press wire recently, the trilogy of books have inspired kids to learn Katniss’ skills, by taking up archery in droves and attending the Hunger Games Tribute Training Camp.

In years gone by, many people knew how to survive in the wilderness, hunting game and gathering plants for food and to treat illness and injury. As America became more industrialized and more people moved to the urban areas, that knowledge wasn’t handed down and fewer and fewer people retained it. As a point of interest, I thought Collins had made up the katniss plant for which her heroine is named, but I googled it and found out it is a real plant, something like a potato, just like Collins describes in the book.

Now, thanks to the popularity of Collins’ story, those survival skills are being revived.

The first Tribute Training Camp took place on the Auburn University’s Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve and taught the kids about outdoors survival skills, including archery, fire-building, and identifying edible and medicinal plants and wildlife in Alabama. It was attended by 270 Auburn Junior High School students. Several said the field trip was “cool” and they now thought they could survive in the wilderness.

I think field trips like these are a great idea, even if you’re not a fan of the books. You never know what will ignite a kid’s imagination and feed their passion for life. Not all of those 270 junior high kids will become rugged outdoorsmen, but maybe one will become interested in hiking as a form of exercise to stay healthy, one will become interested in animals and become a veterinarian; and one will develop an interest in plants and eventually find a cure for cancer.

Likewise, archery is not just for hunters.

Any way we can get our kids to be more active is a good thing. Basketball and soccer aren’t for everyone and they aren’t sports that you can do all your life, like tennis, golf and archery. And you can learn a lot more than just how to hit a target.

Robert Jellison teaches seventh grade science in Hartland, Mich., and uses archery to illustrate kinetic and potential energy, hand-eye coordination and how pulleys and levers work. In March, he and his students did an archery demonstration.

“Some of the kids there went out that day and signed up for archery,” he told the AP. “All of a sudden, there’s all this excitement.”

Getting kids excited about something is great, but you might want to exercise a little caution. Like any hobby, archery has a lot of great toys and they can add up quickly. Check out archery ranges in the area, borrow equipment there if you can, and get some solid advice from people who have been shooting for years. If your kid decides this is his or her passion, then you can start investing in high-quality equipment that they will use for a long time to come.


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