Area youth received a break from the long, hot days of summer through the Nature Reach Summer Day Camp. The camp is hosted annually by Pittsburg State University’s Biology Department, this year June 25-29 at the PSU Nature History Reserve, located southwest of Pittsburg.
The nature camp is designed to provide children with an introduction to biology and environmental studies through the use of hands-on activities. Children have the opportunity to explore nature and animals; they learn how these animals survive in the wild, their importance to the natural world, and about environmental issues that affect how they survive. The camp covers a little bit of everything in nature—including gardening, rocks, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and mammal tracks and scat.
Pitt State students benefit from the program, as well, such as Kylie Carnahan, PSU alumnus in sustainability. Carnahan said she chose to help out so she could learn more about field biology as well as to work with the animals.
“The activity I did was called ‘Oh Deer,’ I taught about the limiting factors deer have to face to survive; to get to food, shelter, water, and then coyotes and other predators they have to face to live,” Carnahan said. “So we did a little game. They did rounds and if the deer made it to the shelter then they made it that year, the ones that didn’t they died. So it was kind of about survival of the fittest and what they need to survive.”
Abbie Mendenhall, senior in field biology, utilized the program to complete the last requirements for her degree.
“I made a little crime scene like on a bed sheet,” Mendenhall said. “I took three different animal tracks; I had a rabbit and then I had a fox come up and eat the rabbit, and the fox started walking away, and then a bobcat came in and killed the fox. So we had the kids identify what the tracks were and what happened. It was fun.”
The Nature Reach Program coordinator is Delia Lister, also an instructor at PSU. The Nature Reach is an outreach program of Pitt State’s biology department and is part of the department’s Life Science Education Program. The program, which began in 1985, has served over 150,000 children and adults throughout 30 communities. Through the assistance of live and preserved plants and animals, the program offers fun and interesting ways to provide natural history and environmental educational programming.
The Natural History Reserve sits on 79 acres of partially reclaimed land and maintains a laboratory and a raptor care facility; residents of the facility cannot survive in the wild on their own. Birds housed at this time include a Red Tailed Hawk named Bella, a very vocal American Crow named Otis, and Beau the Barred Owl, among others. One activity kids participated in was dissecting Beau’s pellets in order to discover what he had eaten. Lister provided the campers with forceps and a skeleton chart to help decipher what the remains were inside the pellets.
Mary Buchanan, Joplin resident, said she is delighted with the program.
“Both my grandsons love this program,” Buchanan said. “We did this last year, too … they have really had fun and they learned a lot. The oldest has gotten too old, but I will bring his brother again next year too.”
Parents are able to register online for this and other programs provided by the Nature Reach. For more information, visit www.pittstate.edu.