April 20, 2007

Six-week summer program Touch of Nature to offer 'Eco U' for kids

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE — Looking for a way for your kids to have both a fun and educational time this summer?

Look to Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Touch of Nature Environmental Center's Eco U nature camp for keeping your children's minds and bodies fit and active. The day camp, for children entering first- through sixth-grade, features up to six weeks of educational activities from staff who provide innovative, inspiring and safe environmental activities designed to increase a camper's ecological awareness and understanding.

Each week focuses on different themes, such as learning about plants and animals, learning how Native Americans used the land to meet their basic needs, discovering life under water, and protecting the planet and its health. The camps will include fun-filled outdoor activities, including nature crafts, theme-oriented recreation and canoeing. Activities will be age-appropriate.

Touch of Nature previously held one-week nature camps, but they proved so popular the program expanded to six weeks, program coordinator Kate Hellgren said.

One benefit of the classes is children can use what they learn during the camps the rest of their lives, Hellgren said.

"Southern Illinois is so phenomenally beautiful, our objective is to get kids outside and have them learn about nature and be more connected to their sense of place," she said.

The camp takes place June 4 through July 13, with daily activities from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free transportation will be available from the SIU Arena parking lot to Touch of Nature, a wooded area on the shores of Little Grassy Lake, about seven miles south of Carbondale.

The cost is $150 per week; $175 per week with lunch. The cost for campers attending all six weeks is $820; $965 with lunch. Campers may attend one week or any combination of weeks. The cost for the Week 5 camp, when there is no session on July 4, is $120; $140 with lunch.

Space is limited to 80 children per week. The registration deadline is May 11 or until full. For more information contact Hellgren at 618/453-1122, ext. 250. To register, call the Division of Continuing Education at 618/536-7751 or visit http://www.dce.siu.edu/youth/070329ecoucamp.htm.

` The week-long themes are:

  • Week 1 — June 4-8: Plantopia — Oxygen and a place to live. We can't live without plants!
  • Week 2 — June 11-15: Animal Adventures — In every nook and cranny, animals are amazing!
  • Week 3 — June 18-22: Survival 101 — Explore the way Native Americans used the land to meet their basic needs.
  • Week 4 — June 25-29: Wonderful Water — Below the surface it's a whole new world.
  • Week 5 — July 2-6 — Wildlife Workings — Concepts and cycles that hold nature in balance. (No class on July 4).
  • Week 6 — July 9-13: Eco You! — Your planet, how to protect and enhance its health.

SIUC operates the Touch of Nature Environmental Center and has been providing continuous summer camping programs since 1951, and it was the nation's first university-affiliated residential camping program for people with disabilities.