January 26, 2016

Touch of Nature to host mini eco-camps

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Children and their families can explore various elements of nature and have a great time at a series of mini eco-camps taking place at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center during the coming months. 

“After the success of last year’s I ‘Heart’ Eco Mini-Camp, we’ve added new mini-camps and we’re inviting family to join in the fun,” Steve Gariepy, environmental education coordinator, said. “SIU wildlife researchers and natural resource professionals will enhance the wonderful experience our campers know us for.” 

There will be three different mini-camps and participants can choose to attend either of two single-night, overnight camp sessions of each camp. All take place at the Touch of Nature experiential learning center, located about eight miles south of Carbondale off Giant City Road. 

Each camp will include games, outdoor activities, entertainment and a dance party featuring the local band “The Mystic Shrines,” or a DJ. There will also be arts and crafts, giving the kids a chance to make something special to take home. 

The second annual I “Heart” Eco Mini-Camp takes place on Valentine’s Day weekend, with one session running Feb. 12-13 and the other Feb. 13-14. It is open to children ages 7-12. 

Those attending will learn about harvesting sap and the process of turning it into maple syrup. They will explore winter ecology through outdoor activities. Vicki Lang-Mendenhall, therapeutic recreation program director and Southern Illinois Audubon Society member, will lead a birdwatching nature hike.   

The Eco Mini Clan Camp welcomes children ages 4-14 along with their parents or guardians and siblings for sessions March 18-19 or March 19-20. Campers will get acquainted with animal families of various kinds. Sara Stoneski of Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge will focus on bats while Elliot Zieman, SIU student researcher, will teach about bobcats and their habitats. 

The Grand Camp, set for April 15-16 or April 16-17, is for children ages 7-12 and their grandparents. Participants will learn about wildlife contraband from Kenzie Roeder of the Fish and Wildlife Service at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and about otters from Andrew Rutter, SIU student researcher. 

The cost for each camp is $65 for an overnight camper or $60 for children who have previously attended an eco-camp at Touch of Nature. Additional children from the same family can attend for $50 each. Those who just want to attend the daytime portion of the camp can do so for $40. The adult overnight camp price is $75. 

For additional information, visit www.ton.siu.edu or contact Steve Gariepy at mammoth@siu.edu or by calling 618/453-1121, ext. 250. 

You can register online at www.ton.siu.edu, by calling 618/453-1121 or at Touch of Nature Environmental Center. The registration deadlines are: 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 for I “Heart” Eco Mini-Camp, March 15 for the Eco Mini Clan Camp and April 12 for the Grand Camp.