May 03, 2012

Touch of Nature to host Eco U nature day camps

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Children can explore nature like never before at Eco U, the hands-on nature day camps at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

Four different camp adventure sessions in June and July actually comprise Eco U.  Each session is for children entering grades two-seven in the fall.  Each weeklong experience has a different theme, all designed to heighten ecological awareness and give participants a better understanding of the world around them. 

“Eco U is a fun yet intellectually and physically stimulating hands-on, experiential place,” Kate Hellgren, environmental education program coordinator and Eco U camp director, said.  “It’s a thinking kids camp where they can have fun as they get down and dirty with nature.  They are having such a good time they don’t even realize they are learning.  Research indicates that play in nature, especially during middle childhood, enhances a child’s creative problem-solving ability as well as emotional and intellectual development.” 

The schedule for Eco U 2012 includes: 

            •  Animal Adventures, June 11-15:  Animals are amazing creatures wherever you find them and in this session, campers will explore the world of mammals, reptiles, bugs and birds.

            •  Survival 101, June 18-22:  Here’s your chance to discover how Native Americans utilized the land to meet all of their basic survival needs.

            •  Wonderful Water, June 25-29:  There’s an entirely different world lurking in the water and this session delves into that nether world. 

    •  Planet Earth, July 2-3 and 5-6:  Find out more about this wonderful planet earth and how to protect it and make it a healthier place.

“This is the sixth year we’ve offered the full-day Eco U camps and children love it so much, it’s the highlight of their summer.  Some campers come every year. and when they return, they often bring new friends with them.  This camp enhances how children interface with the environment and see their role on the planet,” Hellgren said,

The cost is $185 per week for the first three sessions and $148 for the final camp, Planet Earth, since it is just four days long because of the Independence Day holiday.  Children can save $40 and participate in all four sessions for $663.

The camp runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.  Parents may drop children off at the camp, located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road.  Or, save time and gas by utilizing the free supervised bus transportation from the SIU Arena parking lot to Touch of Nature.  The bus leaves the lot at 8 a.m. and returns about 4:30 p.m.  There is supervision for the children only during those hours though, so parents should note the timelines.

Campers should bring sack lunches to the camp each day.  Touch of Nature will provide snacks and water.  Eco U T-shirts are also available for $10.

There is a limit of 40 campers for each session so camp officials encourage early registration.  To sign up, or for more information, call 618/453-1121 or visit the website at