Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
Brianna Springman, 9, of Vandalia looks at different animal fur Tuesday during Summer Nature study camps at Ballard Nature Center. This specific camp is called Junior Naturalists for fourth and fifth graders. The next Junior Naturalists camp will be held July 9-11, photo by Alexa Rogals.
By Melissa Svec
Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School
This summer Ballard Nature Center, located in Altamont, directors Karan Greuel and Patty Gillespie are giving children the experience of nature camps without going far from home.
The three-day camps are scattered throughout the summer season and are divided into age groups – kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, fourth and fifth grade and sixth and seventh. Campers start the day at 9 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 25, the nature center welcomed 14 fourth- and fifth-graders. Some of children have taken part in the summer camps since they were in kindergarten and some are just experiencing it for the first time. The campers take part in crafts, educational games and walks on the trails.
“I think their favorite part is getting out on the trail and finding tracks,” said Greuel.
Each day they cover a new topic, Tuesday was mammals, Wednesday was insects and Thursday is pollinators.
The educational camp gives children an opportunity to learn through the games they play. They play “Freeze Tag,” but adapt it to mean the children are fossilized when caught. One of the kids gets to play the part of the paleontologist, who is able to come and save them.
On Tuesday, the campers were given a picture of a mammal and were asked to match the picture with the pelt. The junior naturalists, the theme of this week’s camp, had no problem finding the correct mate.
Greuel likes that the camps get children outdoors, but they offer another aspect that she looks forward to.
She enjoys seeing their excitement when the kids are out on the trails and are discovering new things.
The camp is in its eleventh season, with plans to keep the camp going in the coming seasons.
More camps are scheduled next month. For more information, visit ballardnaturecenter.org or call 618-483-6856