Young campers learn all about nature at Goose Creek|4-H Camp Wannagoma now in its 20th year

Published 5:49 am Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lifestyles & Features Editor

Goose Creek State Park has become an outdoor classroom this week during the 20th season of 4-H Camp Wannagoma.
The event is a cooperative effort between Beaufort County 4-H and the park, according to Kelley Thompson, superintendent of Goose Creek State Park.
“We provide the majority of the programs, and 4-H provides all of the supplies and a lot of the logistics,” she said.
Joining Thompson in planning programs for the young campers are fellow park staffers Sandra Fambrough, Chris Cabral and Kevin Bischof.
Each day has lessons and activities centered around the theme “Cycles,” said Louise Hinsley, 4-H Youth and Development agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.
“This provides permanent learning by having fun,” Hinsley said of the camp. “It includes hands-on science and environmental education.”
Camp Wannagoma is open to area youngsters who are rising third-, fourth- or fifth-graders. Among the activities this week are seining on the Pamlico River, nature hikes, kayaking and forestry studies, Hinsley said.
They’ve already done leaf printing on pillow cases and are keeping a nature journal of their experiences.
“They are learning how to tell the age of a tree and how trees need space,” Hinsley said. “They know that the controlled burning done here in the park is for the health of the trees.”
While one group joined Thompson and park ranger Sandra Fambrough on the river shore to seine for small minnows and jellyfish Tuesday morning, another group made “water scopes” under the direction of Hinsley and volunteers with the Beaufort County Master Gardener program.
The scopes will come in handy later this week during the kayaking excursion, Hinsley said.
This is actually the second week of 4-H Camp Wannagoma this summer. The park staffers also assist Hinsley in planning two weeks of Critter Camp for children in first and second grades; the final week of Critter Camp is planned for late July. Ninety-six children have enrolled in the four weeks of camp this summer.
“The kids seem to love it,” Thompson said. “Probably three-quarters of them are return campers from past years.”
Among them is 10-year-old Madison Tankard of Bath, who has attended Camp Wannagoma for three years.
“I really like coming here,” Madison said. “I like the stuff you do and getting to go to the beach.”
Today, the campers will be treated to a live-bird show that allows them to get a close-up look at owls and a falcon. The two-hour program focuses on birds of prey and why owls are called “the silent predators of the night,” Thompson said.
“They’ll also get to dissect owl pellets as a hands-on exploration,” she said. “Owl pellets are the leftover stuff the owls cannot digest, like bones, fur and feathers. Basically they hock it up!”
While the kayaking trip is fun, it also provides an opportunity for Goose Creek State Park staff to provide a lesson on the environment.
“They’re learning about wetlands and the importance of protecting wetlands,” Thompson said. “That’s why Goose Creek is where it is. Each state park is preserved for a unique function, and ours is wetlands.”