Elementary age students received the opportunity to learn in-depth information about nature this summer at the Nature Reach summer camp.
The Nature Reach camp ran from Monday, June 24 to Friday, June 28 from 9 a.m. to noon with different themes for each day. Delia Lister, Nature Reach director, lead the camp and has done so for about 10 years.
“So, we want to get kids excited to be outside, we want them to learn about their environment, to be interested and not necessarily scared of all the animals and being scared of getting dirty, and those kinds of things,” Lister said. “… Monday was about birds, Tuesday was about plants and gardening, (Wednesday) was about insects, and today (Thursday) is all about mammals, and Friday will be all about amphibians and reptiles and we’ll throw in some fossils as well.”
Lister teaches college age students during the school year, though the Nature Reach camp draws in students from grades first through third.
“It’s always a fun experience, it’s different—you know, I’m used to teaching college students during the semester, and so I work with younger kids in the summertime and I get to see them over a week, which is a fun thing,” she said.
Audrina Shay, Pittsburg resident, was one of Lister’s helpers at the camp. Shay attended the Nature Reach camp for many years before becoming a camp helper.
“I love it and it teaches kids how to handle the outdoors,” Shay said. “I thought it was really cool, you got to interact with animals like outside and stuff.”
Shay said the most important thing the campers will take away is the information about nature that they learn, and she wanted to be part of that.
“(I became a helper) because I wanted to teach kids what Delia taught me,” Shay said.
Robert Mangile, Audubon member, is part of the Audubon group that pairs up with Nature Reach to help run the camp each summer.
“Oh, I think it’s great, I just think it’s terrific,” Mangile said. “This has been going on for years. We watched these kids come in here first, second, third, and fourth grade then they come back a couple years and you’d be surprised how much they’ve grown and they know the answers to some of the things Delia asks them about. And they know the answers, it really surprises you. Now, I’m not around a bunch of grade school kids, but they pick up on this pretty good. Some years you really get some curious kids that are really inquisitive and that’s what it’s all about. If you’re not connected to nature you’re not connected to life, of course we’re kind of prejudice.”
Mangile said the Audubon group is “friends with PSU” and pairs with the Nature Reach “all the time.” In fact, the Nature Reach camp first began with the Audubon group.
“Before the camp started here … we used to have these at the Crawford County Museum and we ran it … and we worked our tails off for a one-day event,” Mangile said. “And then Delia got this thing going and said, ‘Why don’t you have it out here and buy a few books for us?’ So we did that and now we don’t have to do no more work, Delia does all the work.”
For Mangile, the Nature Reach camp is important for campers to attend because they learn about nature around them and receive the opportunity to interact with nature.
“… You would be surprised how ignorant some of the kids are about what’s going on around them and they’re not aware of it, you know, just the simplest things,” he said. “And they’re curious, but they don’t get an opportunity (because) they’re too busy playing with their cell phones. These little kids here … you go in there right now and they got these millipedes running around on the floor and they cannot quit playing with these millipedes … that’s curiosity. …”
The campers saw many different aspects of nature, including various kinds of animals. Lister said the camp went well this year.
“It’s gone pretty well,” Lister said. “… The kids are excited, it’s been hot today, so we’re a little hot and sweaty today, but that’s OK. But they’ve gotten to see lots of birds and we just saw a common snapping turtle down there in the water, and so we just look for what we can find each day.”
Nature Reach relies on donations and grants, as it is not fully financially funded by Pitt State. Through Nature Reach, each summer kids have the opportunity to learn further in-depth about the environment around them.
“… All of these kids end up having a greater appreciation for animals and they’re excited about being outside and many of them, for example, have never learned how to grow potatoes, and so they get to pick potatoes and then their parents—sometimes I’ve had parents tell me that they’ve started their own potato garden for the next year, so that’s an exciting thing,” Lister said.