June 03, 2016

Tamms students to enjoy ‘WILD’ summer program

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Unique learning experiences await Egyptian School District students participating in the “WILD” summer program, led by faculty and staff from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and their partners. 

The Egyptian School District in Tamms, located in one of the state’s poorest counties, received a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to fund Wilderness Inquiry and Leadership by Design (WILD). The program will begin on Monday, June 6. 

Over a two-week period, up to 50 fifth- and sixth-grade students will enjoy a unique, hands-on learning program involving classroom and field work. The action takes place at their school, in the surrounding region, and at SIU’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center, a 3,100-acre outdoor experiential education facility bordered by the Shawnee National Forest, the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and Little Grassy Lake. 

Participants will do some “backyard archaeology” in the nearby 1800’s ghost town of Progress, researching the community and the people who lived there, including those buried in what’s now known as Progress Cemetery. The students will hike in the forest and learn its history, study lakes, streams and rivers, and enjoy the wilderness lifestyle. They will bond and learn through team building activities including Touch of Nature’s exciting high ropes course. 

SIU’s College of Education and Human Services (CoEHS) is partnering with the university’s Center for Archaeological Investigations, Touch of Nature, the U.S. Forest Service and new partner, Bass Pro Shops of Springfield, Mo., for WILD summer. Teachers and aides from the Egyptian School District will work alongside archaeologists from SIU and the Forest Service and other faculty and staff from SIU.  

The program will be loosely based on the Bass Pro Shops’ WOLF School, and the company is providing various wilderness supplies for the children including day packs, water bottles, first aid kits, and program access and support, according to David Ardrey, director of school partnerships and outreach for CoEHS. He expressed appreciation to the company for its valuable support of the program and said WILD will give children from a somewhat isolated and poor diverse school a wonderful introduction to the wonders of the outdoors, showing them the many resources and opportunities available there at little or no cost. 

“I am excited about our staff and the high caliber of experts our students will learn from and interact with,” Ardrey said. “The indirect value of personal growth, enhanced self-esteem and the confidence that the students will gain from this interaction is invaluable and we cannot predict the long-term positive outcome for each student. My experience in managing these programs tells me this will be a great summer for the students and the long-term benefits will be immeasurable.” 

SIU has partnered with the Egyptian School District to offer summer programs for several years now. 

(Members of the news media can contact Ardrey at 618/924-8218 for more information about the WILD summer program or to schedule a visit.)