May 15, 2008

Space still available in summer Eco-U programs

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- There's still time to sign up for the popular youth summer environmental program, Eco U, hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

Eco U is actually comprised of four themed weekly day camps packed with outdoor excitement, adventure and fun. It's an experiential adventure for children entering grades one through six this fall. Each session runs from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily Monday through Friday, June 2-27. Youngsters are welcome to attend one, two, or all sessions, as each is unique.

Trained, professional instructors lead the campers through innovative, exciting and safe environmental activities designed to enhance their ecological awareness and understanding of the world around them. It's hands-on action that's great summer fun for the kids and great for the plant too, said Kate Hellgren, program coordinator for environmental education at Touch of Nature.

Space is limited and registration is on a first-come basis. The cost is $175 per child, per week. Campers should bring a sack lunch each day; the camp provides water. During the Animal Adventures camp only, campers may attend just Thursday and Friday at a cost of $70.

Youngsters can come directly to Touch of Nature, located about seven miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road. The camp is set among the 3,100-acre facility along the shores of Little Grassy Lake.

Or, campers can also catch a free bus ride from the SIU Arena to Touch of Nature and back each day. The bus leaves the Arena at 8 a.m. and returns by 4:30 p.m.

To find out more about Eco U, contact Touch of Nature at 618/453-1122, ext. 250, or visit the Web site at To register go online at and click on youth, or call 618/536-7751.

Here's the scoop on what each of the weekly Eco U camp session and themes are all about:

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

• Week 2 -- June 9-13: 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 -- June 23-27: Eco U! -- Your plant, how to protect and enhance its health.