April 28, 2008

'Eco U' offers summer fun, education for kids

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Who says summer fun can't be educational too?

Obviously not Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Touch of Nature Environmental Center, as it brings together kids, fun and nature in a learning experience like no other. Eco U is an experiential day camp packed with excitement, recreation and learning adventures for youngsters entering first through sixth grades.

Actually, four unique camping weeks comprise Eco U. Each runs from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the 3,100-acre camp located along the shores of Little Grassy Lake. Trained, professional staff guide the campers through all sorts of innovative, inspiring, exciting and safe environmental activities designed to enhance ecological awareness and understanding. Children can participate in one or more of the weeklong theme-oriented sessions that are full of hands-on outdoor activities.

"Eco U is a wonderful opportunity for kids who love the great outdoors and it's wonderful for the planet too," said Kate Hellgren, program coordinator for environmental education at Touch of Nature Environmental Center. "It's like turning on a light bulb for these kids. It heightens their awareness of the beauty of nature and helps them appreciate even more and become better stewards of our world."

Space is limited for the popular camps. The registration deadline is May 12 or when each camp session is full. The cost is $175 per child each week. For the first camp only, during Animal Adventures, campers may attend Thursday and Friday only for $70. Campers must bring sack lunches each day. The camp provides water.

For more information contact Touch of Nature at 618/453-1122, ext. 250, or look online at www.ton.siu.edu. To register for camp, visit http://www.dce.siu.edu/ and click on youth or call 618/536-7751.

Campers can come directly to the Touch of Nature Environmental Center, located about seven miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road. Or, they can enjoy free, daily, supervised bus rides from the SIU Arena to Touch of Nature and back. The bus leaves the Arena at 8 a.m. and returns by 4:30 p.m.

The 2008 Eco U camp sessions are:

• Week 1– June 2-6, Animal Adventures– In every nook and cranny, animals are amazing!

• Week 2– June 9-11, Wonderful Water – Below the surface, it's a whole new world.

• Week 3– June 16-20, Survival 101– Explore the way Native Americans used the land to meet their basic needs.

• Week 4– June23-27, Eco You!– Your planet, how to protect and enhance its health.