DOVER-FOXCROFT - Keeping children entertained and educated over the summer can be a challenge.
The Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District's "Conservation Camps" make learning fun and give children ages seven to 14 an opportunity to explore the natural resources of the region.
Conservation Camp will be offered in morning and afternoon sessions. Children age 7 to 10 may attend from 9 a.m. to noon. Children age 11 to 14 may attend from 1 to 4 p.m. Enrollment is limited to 30 children per session, so age groups may be adjusted to keep session numbers even or to accommodate individual family needs. This year, Foxcroft Academy is donating space in their Student Center (doors on the end of the building towards town) to accommodate this rapidly growing program.
During the first week, from June 27 to July 1, participants will gather at the Foxcroft Academy Student Center to learn about insects, water life, woodlands, soils, wildlife and more.
Dan Kusnierz, Water Resources Program Manager for the Penobscot Indian Nation, will speak about water quality and the kinds of critters that live in and near healthy waters. Children will have an opportunity to dip for insects first at a bog, then in running water to see how the two differ. There will be more hands-on learning when Soil Scientist Ron Olson, of Natural Resources Conservation Service, teaches the kids how to identify soil layers in a soil pit in the forest.
Entomologist Clay Kirby will present a slide show about insects and how to capture them, then allow the children to handle various specimens that he brings with him for display. Weather allowing, Kirby will take the children outdoors to catch and release insects native to our own backyards.
Gordon Moore, of the Maine Forest Service, will teach the children how to measure trees to estimate their age and how to identify types of trees. Doug Kane, of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, will teach our day campers about wildlife and take them out to explore habitat.
The second week of camp, from July 11 to 15, will feature farm tours. Participants will visit a fallow deer and buffalo farm, watch horses at Infinity Farm, help pick new crops at Stutzman's farm, learn about cows, calves and milking at Gilrock Dairy Farm and learn about raising game birds at the Estes farm in Milo.
The district was able to offer camp to so many children this year due to a wide variety of support from the community. Funding from United Way's Keeping Kids on Track program enables the district to provide school bus transportation for our campers. Three days of camp, which incorporate nutrition education and locally grown food promotion, are being funded by the Piscataquis Public Health Council. Funds from the Milo Garden Club and donated materials from the Palmyra Wal-Mart make it possible for the children to create natural resource-based crafts during camp. Snacks will be provided courtesy of Save-a-Lot Food Store in Dover-Foxcroft again this year, and by Horizon Organics.
The conservation camps are only possible due to the help of guest speakers who donate their time to put on presentations, farm families willing to open their homes to the children and parents able to help provide supervision.
District Executive Director Sheila Grant said that without this kind of support, enrollments would have been limited to fewer children.
Children should wear sturdy shoes that can get muddy, and avoid open-toed shoes. Water bottles, sun screen and insect repellent from home are welcomed. Ag Tour camp days may be cancelled in case of inclement weather. For registration information, call 564-2321, ext. 3, or stop by our office from 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to pick up a registration form.
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