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Mother Nature adds unplanned lesson for campers learning about water

Mother Nature adds unplanned lesson for campers learning about water

From the School Spotlight: Adventures in learning, inside and outside the classroom series
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Participants in a “Wacky Water Week” camp got an unplanned lesson when a thunderstorm interrupted their field trip to a water park.

The elementary-age children spent last week learning about water at Camp Tall Oaks, based at the Madison School Forest southwest of Verona.

Campers also took a field trip to the Mount Olympus Water and Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells, but the trip was cut short when a thunderstorm rolled in, giving the campers another water-themed lesson.

It was still a highlight of the week, some campers said.

“It was a very long ride but it was really fun,” second-grader Isadora Christner said. “We went down lots and lots of slides.”

Camp Tall Oaks is run by Madison School and Community Recreation, and Wacky Water Week, which ended Friday, was the fourth session of nine. Each has a different theme. The last weeklong camps end Aug. 20 and are designed for students entering first through fifth grades.

“I love water,” fourth-grader Kasey Munoz said. “You get wet every single day, and it refreshes you, and that’s what I like.”

Kasey met fourth-grader Olive Kester at camp. They became friends and share a love of water.

“I enjoy going into water because it makes me feel like a fish, and I like fishes because they are colorful,” Olive said.

A day at camp includes art, nature or environmental activities, and enrichment, which typically involves team building or doing something that works on areas such as creativity, critical thinking and large motor skills.

After lunch the campers take part in a “mindfulness” activity such as yoga, meditation or drawing.

“We have one group that likes to go on silent nature walks,” said Maddy McKeown, Camp Tall Oaks site director.

Free time might include board or field games. The site has two fire pits and sometimes program leaders teach kids how to make a fire. Every Friday the campers make a dessert called pudgy pies by placing bread and a filling in a sandwich-making device with a long handle to use over a campfire.

During Wacky Water Week, campers used different techniques while making watercolor paintings. They also learned about topics including water filtration, watersheds, water pollution and erosion.

Games incorporated water, and campers got a chance to play on a Slip ’N Slide and get the staff wet with a dunk tank.

Campers take a bus to the school forest after first being dropped off at Badger Rock Middle School, where they also have an opportunity to do activities. Last week, campers built small boats with sticks they collected earlier at the school forest and then had a competition. A Badger Rock staff member also works with the campers in the gardens and cooking facilities there.

“At the end of the week at Camp Tall Oaks our goal is for kids to have an increased appreciation of and understanding of nature and the outdoors,” McKeown said.

She said the camps are designed for children to learn about wildlife here and elsewhere, feel more comfortable being outside, learn new activities, get out of comfort zones and break down by barriers while making new friendships and bonding over new experiences.

“I have never gotten this much outside time,” Isadora said.

Fifth-grader Jason Hagen said it’s possible to have a lot of fun with people he doesn’t know well yet. Fourth-grader Ara Olurotimi said he has enjoyed the hiking.

“I definitely love nature and this summer camp,” fifth-grader Cora O’Callaghan said. “You also make friends pretty easily.”


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