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FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2007
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Wheeler Wildlife Refuge day camp
Events help youths learn, have fun

By Emily Peck
epeck@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Tired of seeing your children morph into a vegetable from too many hours of Xbox? You can get them outside by enrolling them in summer day camp at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge.

Thursday, 20 children got to pet snakes and catch fish. Youngsters made food-chain necklaces and identified birds on walks. In the afternoon, the group even learned about canine detective techniques from Officer Darrin Speegle.

“No sudden movements or loud talking,” Speegle said, to an auditorium of wide-eyed 11- to 13-year-olds. Youngsters peered nervously over their chairs at Jax, Speegle’s enormous and slightly terrifying german shepherd.

The fun continued as Jax searched the room for narcotics and played viscously with a chew toy even Speegle was hesitant to take from him.

The camp at Wheeler is largely about combining learning with fun. “It’s really a great chance for kids to get their hands dirty while experiencing nature,” said ranger Daphne Moland.

Each summer, she organizes 10 camps with the help of staffers and volunteers.

The theme for this year’s program is “Sense of Wonder: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson.” A distinguished writer and biologist, Carson exposed the dangers of the chemical pesticide DDT. Moland will instruct youths on environmental protection techniques in Carson’s honor.

“Kids really have a blast,” says Moland, “and it’s so important to learn about the nature right around you. We’ve all been educated about global wildlife, but it’s just as important to know your own backyard.”

The camp is so much fun that past participants return to volunteer.

Seventeen-year-old Lucy Edwards is one such returnee. Edwards first began going to camp at 7 and loves working at the refuge so much that she even takes time off from her regular job.

“These are the days I really look forward to, said Edwards. “It’s so much fun working with these kids and remembering the camp experience.”

It’s not too late for your child to have a camp experience. There are still a few spots available in August.

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