As part of an unending quest to uncover opportunities for North Country youth to develop outdoor skills; I am constantly surprised by the numerous programs available. What I have found most notable, across the board, is a significant rise in female participation in mother-daughter or mother-son outings. This should come as no surprise as the divorce rate nationwide rapidly approaches 50%. There are now more households with single parents than at any point in our nations history. As further proof of the trend comes a recent study revealing a 72% increase, over the past five years, in women hunting. An estimated 3.4 million American women took to the hunt in 2006, making them the fastest growing demographic in the field. The proliferation of chips and disks has provided for such diversions as video games, the Internet, iPods and cell phones. Combined with a tremendous explosion of organized youth sports, these two factors have changed the face of traditional outdoor recreation as we knew it. We know that a kid is overwhelmingly more likely to hunt and fish if a parent hunts and fishes and adolescence is the prime time to hook new hunters or anglers. This also happens to be an age where children begin testing their limits by challenging themselves and others. They are in a process of discovering newfound skills, abilities and leisure time activities. In this crucial timeframe, parents can discuss options for positive recreational opportunities and address the dangers of negative recreational outlets. But, the best approach is to get involved, to get out and share adventures with them. If children are presented with an abundance of positive recreational opportunities, the negative recreational options may not seem so enticing. Sure, there will likely be an evening of drinking beer on the town hill, while tossing snowballs at passing cars; like hunting or fishing, it seems to be a North Country tradition. However, if an evening on the hill entails missing hockey practice, a night of skiing, indoor rock climbing lessons or a target shooting program; maybe it wont be so attractive. I recognize that not all parents possess the skills or equipment to engage their children. But, if you cant, all is not lost for there are numerous events and programs that are readily available. Education remains a key area of focus and throughout the region there are opportunities to engage children regardless of age. Retail establishments such as Gander Mountain, Eastern Mountain Sports and Dicks Sporting Good conduct weekly educational seminars and outdoor workshops to kindle interest. Most local nordic ski centers offer demo days and snowshoe events and similar skills development programs are likewise available at the Adirondack Mountain Clubs facilities in Lake George and Lake Placid. On January 12, the Newcomb VIC will offer a Learn To Use a GPS Workshop from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. This is an excellent opportunity to engage children in a pursuit that utilizes their skills and knowledge of navigating an electronic device with navigating the outdoors. The beginner level GPS course is a hands-on workshop for people who would like an opportunity to learn more about using a GPS. Adirondack Connections Guide Service will provide Garmin eTrex GPS units for participants to use throughout the class. The focus of this workshop will be how to operate a GPS receiver and basic skills will be practiced both indoors and outdoors. The following weekend, on January 20, the Newcomb VIC will offer, Out and About: Winter Tracking beginning at 1:30 p.m. Guest naturalist Peter OShea will lead a snowshoe walk on the centers trail system and share information about the world of animal tracks. Preregistration is required. The event is free and snowshoes are available. Call the Newcomb VIC at (518) 582-2000. On January 17 the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smiths will offer Exploring Nature with Little People from 10 a.m. - noon. This is a unique program with a hands-on approach that introduces young children to the natural environment that is held every other Thursday until June for preschoolers ages 3-5 years. Preregistration is required. Cost: $4/child ($2/child for Adirondack Park Institute members). Call the Paul Smiths VIC at (518) 327-3000. The Warren Country 4-H Outdoor Education Program is another invaluable resource in this regard. Throughout the year, the 4-H offers a variety of outdoor education and skill development programs and events. Currently, the Warren County 4-H program will be offering its inaugural shooting sports multi-discipline class beginning on Wednesday January 30th. The program is designed to teach youth about the safe handling of firearms, the ethical use of firearms and bows in hunting, and about the role of the hunter in conservation. This program is in an intensive training session and those who are interested should realize the amount of time they are committing to. There will be about fifteen sessions of instruction by 4-H certified instructors with the help of DEC instructors as well. At least six of those sessions will take place on Saturdays. Many of the sessions will take place on the firing range utilizing bows, air guns, .22 calibers, shotguns, and muzzleloaders. This course will include both the Hunter Safety Certification and the Bow Hunter Safety Certification, though there are no fees for that program. The range & supply fee for the class will be $20 per youth for 4-H members and $25 for non-members (this includes 4-H enrollment). There is a discounted rate for families with more than one youth enrolled in the class. There is a provision for any family who may not be able to afford the fee, please contact the office for more information. Youth must be twelve years of age as of January 30 to participate in this program and the program is limited to eighteen spots. If you know of a youth that would be interested in this program, call John F. Bowe at the Extension office (668-4881) or firstname.lastname@example.org .