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Bartholomew County students had a two-week break from school, but not entirely from learning. Columbus Youth Camp served as a classroom for some.
Seventeen students ages 5 to 13 participated in the Boys and Girls Club’s fall-break day camp, a weeklong, mostly outdoor excursion in the wooded outdoor setting. The camp fell during the Oct. 7 through Friday break for the Bartholomew Consolidated and Flat Rock Hawcreek school systems.
Activities included crafts, canoeing, fishing and other outdoor activities.
Scott Wooton, program director for Columbus Youth Camp, said part of the reason he directed the fall camp is that he has seen that children spend too much time in front of television and video games.
Sedentary lifestyles fly in the face of his upbringing, he added. Wooten said he used to spend entire days outside, and currently he loves to hike, camp, build rafts and otherwise practice the survivalist training he learned as a Boy Scout.
The average child in the United States today spends as little as 30 minutes a day in unstructured, outdoor play, but more than seven hours daily in front of an electronic screen, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Meanwhile, childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in the past 20 years, the federation reports, with 17 percent of children ages 6 to 11 in the obese category.
The fall camp is in its second year, rising from the BCSC’s decision to adopt a balanced calendar that lengthens spring and fall breaks.
It operates in much the same way as the Foundation for Youth’s summer camp, Wooten said, and gives children a chance to spend their time away from school learning about and experiencing the outdoors in a safe environment.
The calm water of Youth Camp Lake struck an adventurous chord with 10-year-old Reece Fisher in a much more physical way than his video games at home ever could. That’s what his mother, Amy Fisher, said she hoped for when she signed up her Rockcreek Elementary School fourth-grader.
“I liked fishing the best,” Reece said, because it was relaxing and fun.
Students started their second day of camp activities by making pretend Indian parchment to tell a story with pictures.
Caleb Gorbett, 7, a first-grader at Schmitt Elementary School, followed instructions by tearing out the side of a brown paper bag and crumpling it to mimic deer hide. At first, Caleb couldn’t find the markers he wanted, but then saw them on a neighboring table and grabbed a fistful.
He drew a robot and a zombie.
Jaylei Carr, 11, a sixth-grader at Mt. Healthy Elementary School, drew a series of pictures that told the story of a horse who searched without success for water. She used squiggly lines for the water with a line drawn through to indicate that the horse couldn’t find any.
She enjoyed the craft, but Jaylei said at the end of the day, about 4:30 p.m., that her favorite activity had been canoeing.
Younger children were paired with older children in each canoe. Wooten showed them how to board a canoe — one person straddles the back to hold it steady while the rest climb aboard — and how to propel and turn the canoe by rowing in tandem with other passengers.
Jaylei, who has taken part in summer camp for years, said she liked canoeing because it meant fun with friends.
Her mother, Jenni Carr, said the entire camp experience was a great exercise in team building and nurtures her daughter’s love for the outdoors.
Jackson Shumaker, 12, a sixth-grader at Schmitt Elementary School, was firmly in his element as he pulled his canoe to the edge of the water and readied the craft.
“What’s not to like?” he said. “My little brothers and me come here every summer. I think that camp is awesome.”
Wooten said he hopes other children come to appreciate nature in the same way.
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