April 20, 2016

Touch of Nature to host summer camps for children

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Fun and adventure await children of all ages at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center this summer. 

The experiential outdoor educational facility is offering Eco Day Camps for children ages 7-10, Explorer Camps for ages 10-13 and Voyageur Camps for ages 13-15. All of the camps include fun, hands-on, age-appropriate nature activities and plenty of water fun. Each camp week has a specific theme, helping children enhance their ecological awareness and understanding of the world around them as they have a great time. 

Many of the camps are day camps with participants attending from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Parents may drop children off at the camp, located about eight miles south of Carbondale off Giant City Road. Or, take advantage of supervised bus transportation from the SIU Arena parking lot to Touch of Nature, provided at no additional cost. The bus leaves the lot at 8 a.m. and returns about 4:30 p.m.  Supervision is only offered during those times though, so drop-off and pick-up should be prompt at the arena. 

Some of the Explorers and Voyageurs sessions are overnight camps. There is no shuttle service for these camps. 

The 2016 Eco Camps, for ages 7-10, cost $200 per session and the schedule includes:

  • “Survival 101 Day Camp,” June 20-24, teaching basic outdoors survival skills and featuring hiking and paddling.
  • “Blue Planet Day Camp,” June 27-July 1, focusing on water as a natural resource and home to living creatures and incorporating water games.
  • “Clan of the Cave Kids Day Camp,” July 11-15, a step back in time to the prehistoric days when mammoths and other ancient species covered North America, allowing participants to enjoy cave painting, working as a tribe, canoeing and other activities.
  • “Wild Things Day Camp,” July 18-22, incorporating study of the countless types of creatures that inhabit the park, including turkeys, eagles, bobcats, deer and animals large and small along with information about animal behaviors and habitats and how to protect them.
  • “X-Treme Kids Day Camp,” July 25-29, featuring such activities as hiking, zip-lining, rock climbing and paddle boat rides along with tie-dying camp T-shirts. 

The Explorers Camp schedule, for ages 10-13, includes:

  • “Adventures are Underway Overnight Camp,” June 13-17, filled with outdoor adventures in hiking, canoeing, the ropes course and other classic camp traditions, $450.
  • “Survival 102 Day Camp,” June 27-July 1, providing experience in outdoor survival techniques from how to read maps and a compass to building shelters and making fire, complete with hiking and paddling fun, $250.
  • “Blue Planet 2 Day Camp,” July 11-15, exploring the area’s waterways through swimming, canoeing and kayaking, performing pond studies and other activities, capped off with snorkeling at Mermet Springs, $250.
  • “Naturalist Day Camp,” July 18-22, offering a more in-depth version of the eco camps to help older children explore and understand nature and learn skills to help them enjoy the world around them, $250.
  • “Wild Outdoor Week (W.O.W.) Day Camp,” July 25-29, filled with swimming, rock climbing, canoeing, zip-lining and learning survival skills and offering the chance to tie-dye your own souvenir T-shirt, $250. 

The schedule for the Voyageurs camps, offered for teens ages 13-15, includes:

  • “Leadership Overnight Camp,” June 13-17, giving campers the chance to learn leadership skills as they undertake challenge courses, service-learning exercises, short expeditions and hands-on leadership activities, $450.
  • “Survival 103 Overnight Camp,” July 11-15, teaching participants to build shelters, gather food, navigate through the camp through extended periods outdoors, $450.
  • “River Runners Overnight Camp,” July 18-22, beginning with a day of orientation activities at Touch of Nature and then moving on to explore the Eleven Point River in Missouri, paddling among the bald eagles and other sights and wrapping up at the natural pool Boze Mill Spring, $500.
  • “Southern Adventures Day Camp,” July 25-29, exploring many of the natural gems of the region, including sandstone bluffs, swamps, and rocky hills at Touch of Nature, Jackson Falls, Mermet Springs, the Cache River and adding a snorkeling visit to a scuba training center, $300.  

There are multiple ways to register for the camps or get more information.  Go online to www.ton.siu.edu and sign up or email tonec@siu.edu.  You may also sign up in person at the camp or print the form, complete it and fax it to 618/453-1188. Or, obtain additional details or register by calling 618/453-1121. 

In addition, Touch of Nature has also partnered with the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois to offer several residential Girl Scout camps this summer. The camps are open to all girls, whether scouts or not. Activities will include swimming, canoeing, hiking, archery, environmental education, crafts, working on badges, singing and campfires. The older girls will also enjoy rock climbing and the high ropes course.  

The Girl Scout camp schedule includes: 

  • Touch of Nature Mini Camp, July 26-29, “Livin’ Like a Bigfoot” is for girls entering grades 2-3 and they’ll learn to enjoy the outdoors without leaving a trace. “Water World,” for girls entering grades 4-5 will focus on water activities and learning and “Choose Your Adventure,” for girls entering grades 6-12, lets participants choose the activities they want to enjoy. The cost is $250.
  • Touch of Nature Weeklong Camp, July 31-Aug. 6, includes “Fairies, Gnomes and Wizards,” for girls entering grades 2-3, which will highlight the magic of the forest as children build fairy houses, make magical potions, learn to care for wounded animals and meet live owls. “Zombie Apocalypse Training 2.0,” for girls entering grades 4-5, will include survival skills study, learning to think and live off of the land, and archery. “Future Leaders of the Outdoor World,” for girls entering grades 6-12, lets them design their own camp experience and even help guide their camp activities. The price is $375. 

Find more information and registration forms and details for the Girl Scout camps at www.gsofsi.org