How often do you get the chance to hurl an atlatl at a prehistoric animal, drill into a tree to determine its age or listen to the world the way a bat hears it?

Those are just a few of the activities that 26 Fredonia fifth-graders got to experience during Kids in the Woods Day, hosted Thursday, August 27, at Jacob Lake by the North Kaibab Ranger District.

Aided by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service, which was intended to get more of the country’s kids out into nature, district employees set up a variety of activities to help give kids an appreciation for the natural world and for the various conservation activities that take place in the forests.

"The Forest Service is a multi-use agency," said Angela Gatto, a wildlife biologist and the organizer of this year’s event. "Having the kids work with all the different agencies in this district, I think it just hits home the importance of the forest in their own backyard."

Kids spent the day with district biologists, archaeologists, range and recreation specialists, forest technicians and silviculturists. Activities included roping a rubber steer and petting a horse, unpacking the gear used by a typical fire crew and operating the fire hose. Kids got to use a hand-held GPS unit to navigate through the woods and learn about a lesser-understood resident of this area, the bat.

Archaeologists discussed the prehistoric cultures that lived on the Kaibab Plateau, showed a few artifacts, and kids got to make some pottery of their own. Participants also got to drill into a tree and count the rings on the core sample, split open a pine cone to inspect the seeds and measure the tree heights to estimate their growth rates.

"These trees grow at all different rates due to a variety of factors, like moisture, sunlight, competition," Forestry Technician Paul Callaway told one group of children. "Part of what we do is trying to understand how the trees will grow, so we can manage them they way people want them."

Kids also got to take turns throwing the spear-like atlatl at a hay bale covered with a picture of a wooly mammoth.

The North Kaibab Kids in the Woods Day is one of seven programs which make up the More Kids in the Northern Arizona Woods proposal. In July, More Kids in the Northern Arizona Woods received $50,000 out of a $500,000 nationwide grant from the U.S. Forest Service to help carry out its seven programs.

On average each day, kids from ages 8 to 18 spend almost 6-1/2 hours in activities involving electronic media, including 3 hours of TV; by contrast, they spend about 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor activities.

The common goals for all seven programs include increasing the time children spend in nature, as well as the number of children participating in outdoor programs, providing opportunities that increase children’s awareness and understanding of the natural world and strengthening local conservation/outdoor educational partnerships.

This is the second year the North Kaibab Ranger District has hosted the Kids in the Woods event. The district hopes to continue offering this opportunity to local kids on an annual basis.