Outdoor Nation: Project GEKO

As we speak, I’m sitting at my first ever outdoor related conference (waiting for it to get started) – Outdoor Nation’s Boston Summit. I have to admit I have no idea what I’m in for, but I’ve been counting down the days and I’m psyched it’s finally here. From everything I’ve heard and the pictures I’ve seen from the prior summits, it looks like I’m in for something way different. How so?

The whole goal of Outdoor Nation is to figure out how to get people outside, hence their motto “Get the Fun Outside”. Every summer, they hold a few conferences around the nation for outdoorsy people between the ages of 16 and 28. Everyone comes together to brainstorm, brainstorm, and brainstorm a little more. What can we do to get more people outside?

What makes the conference so unique is that ideas that are voted to be the “best” by your fellow summit attendees will receive a grant to get the project from idea to reality. Pretty cool, huh? Companies such as Merrell and North Face are also present (as sponsors) to offer feedback, career discussions, and advice.

So, over the past few months I’ve been trying to figure out what my BIG idea was going to be. I didn’t want to go empty handed to the summit, so I’d like to introduce… Project GEKO – Get Every Kid Outside.
For those who know me in person, you’ll know that I’m a complete nerd who can’t put my camera or phone down for five seconds. I’m not ashamed about being a technology addict because I do something a bit different with it: I share. My entire goal of being on Twitter while up on Rumney? Sharing the stories and triumphs of climbers. Why do I lug my DLSR camera to every state park I visit? So I can share everything I see.

Project GEKO is inspired by this. There’s been so much blame that kids aren’t getting outside because of technology, but instead I think we should embrace the union of nature and technology. If we can’t get kids to put down the phone, video games, and camera – let’s not make them. Let’s use what where their attention is focused!

The whole premise of Project GEKO is to create a game. Yep, an electronic game. Why? Well here are some cool facts (thanks to Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken).

Any idea why people play games? Here’s the top reasons. Bet these aren’t what you thought of…

  • To feel like heroes
  • To feel powerful
  • To belong to a community
  • To engage with others
  • To solve problems in a creative way
  • To be thrilled and exhilarated

Jane McGonigal has this kind of crazy goal. She wants to see a game designer win a Nobel prize by 2023, and I want to help. To do this, she has this theory that we need to spend MORE time playing games (I can already here to the collective groan from my outdoorsy friends). But she’s talking a different type of game – games focused around education, learning, engagement, and other positive traits.  I want to get kids outside, healthy, and educated – so I think a game might just do it. I have a plan!

More to come…

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About Jillian Bejtlich

Hey! I'm Jillian Bejtlich. I’m a lifelong New Englander with a serious love of the outdoors, adventure, and a pretty serious inability to sit still. I’m plagued by the travel bug, and it seems I’ll try any relatively sane and safe thing once. My big goal in life: Get people outside!