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Elachee offers ‘discovery-oriented’ summer camp

Kids learn geography, geology, weather and climate

POSTED: June 13, 2011 11:03 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Gracie Martin finds a gem in the sand during a Lightning, Lava and Landslides camp at Elachee Nature Science Center Monday.

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Summer in North Georgia usually means cooling off in a nearby pool, except for kids participating in Camp Elachee.

They prefer to cool off in a creek.

"We get the kids outside as much as possible," said Lavon Callahan, director of communications and organizational development at Elachee Nature Science Center. "The camps aren't heavy science-oriented, but they're heavy discovery-oriented."

This week, kids at the Lightning, Lava and Landslides camp are learning geography, geology, weather and climate through hands-on activities such as panning for gems and having a visit from a storm chaser.

Aidan Clonts, 7, is attending his third year of Camp Elachee. He's most looking forward to the campers' visit to Starlab, Elachee's portable planetarium.

"You get to crawl into this big black thing and there's planets and stuff," he said.

Hiking, which Callahan said the kids will do daily, is also a favorite activity.

"You find so many things," said Joycelyn Tifrea, 8. "I found (a millipede) that was red and black. I'm excited about going to the creek."

Camp Elachee has programs all summer for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, all designed around a theme that slips learning in amongst crafts, experiments and guest presentations.

"We do some kind of rock study every year. We have kids who come up here and say things like, ‘Oh, that's a quartz' and point somewhere and say ‘That's an obsidian,'" said Michelle Cash, Camp Elachee director. "I love coming up with ideas. We try to relate science and nature activities into what kids want to know about."

Upcoming camp themes include water activities, nature and literature, fossils, reptiles and amphibians, and wilderness survival.

As the elementary school campers are watching paper mache volcanoes explode, the middle school campers are learning what it takes to be Bear Grylls.

"They're working on their survival skills," Cash said. "They're going to have a sleep over and put their skills to the test, and they're going to make a survival video for the parent program."

The nature center, which is not part of Hall County Parks and Recreation, has been hosting camps "since its inception" more than 30 years ago, Callahan said.

"There aren't many places kids get to play outside like this," she said. "You're not going to see a basketball or a soccer ball or any traditional yard sports out here."

 



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