Chad Tussing (too-sing), Director of Outdoor Campus West in Rapid City, is an outdoor dad who grew up exploring all nature had to offer in his hometown near the Ohio River.
“Many times, I would get home from school when I was growing up, let the dog out and we would just explore,” said Chad. “It was about what we could find: tracks, birds, squirrels, etc. Then, I’d come home and it was dinner time.”
From overturning rocks in the creek on outings with his dad to seeing animals on his after-school adventures – the love of being outside has never left Chad.
Following his explorative nature, he went to school for Fisheries Management at Ohio State University. Now, Chad oversees the operations, programming, classes
and events at the hands-on facility.
Much like his time with family growing up, Chad and his three children, Ethan (13), Elisa (11) and Wil (8) try to spend as much time outside together as possible – regardless of their busy schedules.
“My kids are active in basketball and band and those school activities take time,” said Chad. “Sometimes, they’re in three different places all at once, but as their parent, I think it is important to be involved with all the things they are going through.”
Every year, the family plans at least one vacation trip, with multiple other outings scattered throughout the year. “As a family, we are committed to spending time together so that goes on the calendar. If you want something to happen, you have to write it down.”
When the Tussings are off on one of their many camping trips throughout the Hills, the family of four will hike, canoe and kayak, but most importantly, they will play. “It’s important for adults to separate a kid outing vs. an adult outing,” said Chad. “With kids, the most important thing is to focus on the experience. Have fun and make it positive, asking yourself: ‘What can we find?’ ‘What can we learn?’ and ‘How can we just have an enjoyable time together?’”
If you’ve been outside of city limits anywhere in the Black Hills, you know that cell service is poor and there’s oftentimes no wifi – which can be awesome, not just for your kids, but for you, too. Take time to unplug to get plugged in to your family, creating memories your children will keep for a lifetime.
“I hope my kids will look back as adults and remember all the fun times we had when we went camping,” said Chad, “or the time we got caught in the rainstorm when we were out hiking and had to dash all the way back. I hope they appreciate the outdoors for its existence and for what it can offer – finding their place in it, too.”
You don’t need to take a week off of work and pack up the kids for a hiking or camping trip. Start with a short, easy outing to a local trail like Devils Bathtub in Spearfish Canyon, Iron Creek Trail in Custer State Park or M Hill in Rapid City. Here are a few of Chad’s tips on completing a successful family outing into nature.
Make lots of lists and check it off as you go. As your kids begin to grow older, hand off some of the tasks like packing some of their own things. Of course, double-check their packing for key items depending on your outing.
Pack lots of snacks. Whether your crew is out hiking for the day or you’re camping over night, snacks will make life a lot easier.
Don’t put a time or mileage on your outing, especially with young children. Adventure is about the experience and what you will be doing along the way.