What palm-size amphibian has the ability to elicit both fascination and fear at the same time? For kids attending the ACRES Youth Adventure Day Camp on Wednesday, it was a wood frog that first drew children to it – and then scattered them, screaming, as it hopped away.
ACRES Volunteer Jill Noyes quickly pulled out an oversized book that explained the differences between frogs and toads. After hearing a description of each amphibian, the kids debated which it was, concluding it must be a frog, due to the moist, smooth skin one of the campers got to touch.
For the first time, ACRES Land Trust – which is Indiana's oldest and owns 75 nature preserves, is hosting the adventure day camp for children. The camp has four sessions: two at Wing Haven Nature Preserve in Steuben County and two at the Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve in Allen County. The sessions started Wednesday, with one more at Wing Haven next Wednesday, followed by the two sessions in Allen County on July 21 and 28. The cost is $20 per child, per day.
Jill Noyes, a volunteer for the day camp, said the idea for the camp came out of an ACRES committee put together after Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children & Nature Network and author of “Last Child in the Woods,” spoke last fall about children's growing disconnectedness with the natural world.
Members of nature groups across the country are aging, said Noyes. So, more effort is needed to interest younger members and help children develop an appreciation of nature. Those involved with the land trust are hoping this camp could start participants' lifelong appreciation of natural spaces.
The five youths who attended the first session appeared to have fun. Despite the screams over the hopping frog, the kids learned about wild raspberries and how pine cones release seeds. They made pine cone bird feeders, went on a nature hike, did a scavenger hunt that prompted them to match colors in the forest to paint chips, and most importantly had two hours of play time built into their schedules so they could explore their natural environment. A day at camp lasts from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.; lunch and snacks are provided.
Next week campers will get a visit from Soarin' Hawk Raptor Rehab, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates injured birds of prey. There will be several live specimens. Ricky Kemery, Allen County Horticulture Educator with the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service, will also lead a tree identification hike.