National Get Outdoors Day! Turn the TV off and enjoy our public lands

National Get Outdoors Day encourages underserved communities, first-time visitors and kids to enjoy nature.

Credit: MFer Photography, flickr.

June 13 marks the eighth annual National Get Outdoors Day, or “GO Day,” an opportunity to encourage outdoor recreation for underserved communities and kids across America.

This year’s edition of GO Day, which is a joint project undertaken by federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and the outdoor recreation industry, focuses on encouraging underserved communities and first-time visitors to enjoy public lands, as well as reconnecting children with the outdoors.

More: 20 fun things to do with kids in national parks

Sponsored activities will be held throughout the country to encourage people to get out into nature, making the day one of the signature events during this presidentially proclaimed Great Outdoors Month.

See where National Get Outdoors Day activities are happening near you

GO Day is a great opportunity to have fun outside, but its mission is serious. The last few years have seen a long-overdue discussion about the need to help all Americans, including marginalized communities of color, connect with our shared public lands.

Enjoying the great outdoors near Arizona's Tonto National Forest. Credit: Jason Farrar, flickr.

In addition, recent research has found that kids spend much more time staring at screens than they used to—an average of six and a half hours per day, according to one report—and it negatively affects everything from their weight to their academic performance to their ability to recognize emotions. Unstructured outdoor activity could help.

More: Why getting kids outdoors matters for the future of conservation

Some improvements have been made in these areas. The designation of of the Pullman and Honouliuli national monuments by President Barack Obama early in 2015 signalled progress toward the goal of diversifying public lands and honoring the lives of all Americans as we tell the story of our country. President Obama also launched the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative to get more kids playing and learning outdoors, and, in April, legislation was introduced to provide incentives for states to combat the “indoor kids” trend.

Making sure that all Americans, of every age, get the opportunity to enjoy our public lands is a big project, and it won’t be finished overnight. You can start small by getting outdoors with your family, wherever you are, and enjoying nature this weekend!