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Spring break campers learn about animals and plants
Elachee's Naturepalooza teaches students about tree rings
World Language Academy first-grader Noah Lenkeit, 7, licks frosting from his hand Wednesday after decorating a tree ring cookie during Naturepalooza, a spring break day camp at the Elachee Nature Science Center. Campers are spending the week learning about nature and ecology. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Noah Lenkeit, 7, carefully counted the icing squiggles on his sugar cookie. One, two, three — that's how old his tree, represented by icing rings on a cookie, would be.

Lenkeit was one of the campers Wednesday at Naturepalooza spring break camp at Elachee Nature Science Center. The weeklong day camp is an opportunity for the kids to learn about plants, animals, conservation and ecology.

"I especially like the cookie part and the bear den," said Michael Francis, 8. "We're trying to make a bear den out of cardboard boxes."

The material, prepared by Camp Director Michelle Cash, offers in-depth learning about conservation and allows a lot of hands-on activities.

"They actually get to be out in nature learning about rocks and actually handling things as opposed to just being told this is an igneous rock and this is metamorphic," Cash said. "... We want to try to encourage kids to just be out in nature as much as possible."

On Monday, the group hiked to a big oak tree and talked about the fungi and plants spotted along the way.

"We're just trying to pack as much as we can into one week," Cash said.

Sofia Moreno, 8, said she liked having all the open space at Elachee.

"We've been taking hikes, looking at animals, doing cool activities learning about the animals," she said.

Ben Jenkins, also 8, said he liked learning about the rings that denote a tree's age.

"The kids are great. They're very eager and excited to learn things and they're having a blast doing tree cookies," Cash said.