Pirates of the Alleghenies

Youth Conservation Camp explore the Great Outdoors

Photo submitted to Times Observer Students fish during the Warren County Conservation District Children’s Nature Camp.

Arrr. There be pirates in Warren County.

The Warren County Conservation District’s summer nature camp theme for the year was Pirates of the Great Outdoors.

“Every year a new theme is brainstormed by enthusiastic Conservation District staff who look forward to expanding the minds of lively young people who are eager to learn,” Watershed Specialist Jean Gomory said. “This summer, 89 youngsters attended five different camps throughout June and July.”

At Youth Conservation Camp (YCC), a three-day camp for students in grades seven through nine, coordinator Resource Conservationist Amanda Frederick who enjoys “guiding the kids through new experiences outside and showing them things they have never done before.”

Topics included hunter safety, wetland diversity, wilderness survival, forestry, and mussels. They also saw an electroshocking demonstration on Hatch Run to look for wild trout and built a raingarden as their community service activity with Jeff Carlstrom, Frederick said.

Youth Conservation Camp explore the Great Outdoors

Younger students attended three different Children’s Nature Camps (CNC). The two-day camps are split up in two-grade groups: CNC I for first and second; CNC II for third and fourth; and CNC III for fifth and sixth, and led by Gomory.

CNC campers learned the six essential things to take with them on a hike and how to use a compass, Gomory said. “They learned about Seneca dances and heard native stories. They were shown what to do if they get lost in the woods and saw search and rescue dogs do their thing as they sniffed out three volunteers who ran away with a pirate’s treasure.”

“I love seeing the ‘light-bulb’ moment when the kids grasp a new concept,” she said.

While at CNC the kids also learned about bats, the ocean, built blue bird houses, and went fishing – some for the first time. “I enjoy seeing the excitement on their faces when they catch their first fish,” Conservation Program Assistant Sherry Moore said.

The youngest campers – in Kindergarten Nature Camp (KNC) – got their hands dirty for the day.

“Kids at KNC this year got their hands dirty as they dug for worms and bugs, built fairy/gnome houses, made walking sticks, learned about litter, and searched for water bugs under the depths of Hatch Run,” Gomory said. “They also got to meet Smokey Bear.”

Throughout the camps, campers heard from presenters from the Kalbfus Club, Boy Scouts, Erie County Conservation District, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – Bureau of Forestry and special guest Smokey Bear, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Chapman State Park, Scott Mead and friends along with Haliegh Stanton, Cherry Grove Volunteer Fire Department K-9 Sar, and the Warren County Conservation District’s Teacher Naturalists and Volunteers, and Junior Camp Counselors. “These many speakers contributed their time and knowledge to make this a worthwhile and fulfilling educational experience for all who attended,” Gomory said.

For families interested in conservation district activities, there is a mailing list.

“To expose your kids to the wonders of the great outdoors, send your mailing address to the Warren County Conservation District at 4000 Conewango Avenue, Warren, PA 16365, or call (814) 726-1441 to be added to the mailing list,” Gomory said. “The Conservation District will send you the annual newsletter in the spring which contains all of the information about all of our programs including summer camps along with the registration forms. Next year’s theme is ‘Where the Wild Things Are.'”

Updates about all conservation district programs can also be found at the organization’s website: www.wcconservation.net.