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Pathfinder Taking Shape

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Kids in Cedar Rapids will soon have another place to learn about nature and pick up important survival skills, all within city limits. Plans for the Pathfinder Outdoor Education Center have been approved by the city.

When the construction is finished, there will be a lodge and maybe some cabins, but itll still be a lot of woods. Thats because its already the environment needed to teach kids how to be closer to nature.

What we do is called experiential education and there's a lot in the literature that that's an important thing for these kids to have, said Pathfinder Executive Director Dave Blankenship.

It gets kids outside and teaches them things like first aid for when theyre far away from help and other survival skills. Its close enough to home to be convenient but you wouldnt know it.

When you get down in this ravine, there are a lot of animals down there and you forget there is a street just a few hundred yards away, said Blankenship. It really gives a real sense of isolation and sort of the wilderness.

There are already places like the Wikiup Hill Learning Center that the county says works as a launch pad to spark interest in nature.

Its an opportunity to learn inside, learn about what's happening in Iowa and then go outside hike the trails and learn about that native ecosystem, said Linn County Conservation Community Outreach Manager Jessica Rilling.

Blankenship is already involved in some of those programs, but Pathfinder is intended for kids past those introductory stages, like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

I think it is a pretty specialized niche in the Boy Scout world it seems to be the older scouts that handle this type of thing, said Cedar Rapids Development Services Program Manager Joe Mailander. I don't think there are too many groups doing what they do.

They wont just be learning about the outdoors, theyll be living it. Blankenship does that kind of work now, but in many different locations.

Were sort of always moving about looking for places and this will give us a place for those so were not always hauling equipment all over the city, said Blankenship.

It gives his teaching a home, even if it doesn't always have a roof.
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