Program educates students about outdoors

July 06, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

FORKLAND - It's a big, beautiful world out there in the woods, and Susan Anderson is happy to show some of the area's children just how interesting the outdoors can be.

In just one afternoon in the woods for instance, a group of kids learned how to read a map and a compass, made trail mix to sustain them during a strenuous hike, then took to the trail and got to experience nature up close.

It was part of a series of nature discovery programs for elementary and middle school children at the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge. Two of the five programs remain, and Anderson, who serves as the refuge's resident caretaker along with husband Robert, said the series has been quite popular.

"Every program has been full," Anderson said.

The series of one-day programs replaces a week-long day camp program Anderson hosted for the last two years. Each of these programs stands on its own - children can attend just one if they like - and each is tailored to a slightly different age range. Anderson said what's safe for one age group might not be safe for another.


"Middle and elementary kids love to go down to the creek, and for safety reasons I don't like to take little ones down to the creek," she said.

At last week's program, a group of 11 children between ages 9 and 12 prepared for and then embarked on a 2 1/2-mile hike.

Anderson had some help with that program, as five Girl Scouts from Burgin-based troops 70 and 734 gave a presentation before the hike. The girls, who were earning merit badges for their work, demonstrated how to read maps and compasses and how to measure paces, then taught orienteering skills as the children worked their way through a marked course.

Then came the hike, which took the group over the most arduous trails and to the highest point in the 500-acre preserve.

"That was probably the best hike we've had," Anderson said. "The kids did just fabulous."

Much more than just taking a walk

It was about much more than just taking a walk, as the children learned about what they saw on the way. The sights include a small green snake, tiny enough and harmless enough for them to touch.

"They had a wonderful day," Anderson said.

The kids, who came from Boyle, Casey and Pulaski counties, even received patches similar to the scouts' award badges when the hike was over.

So far, 30 different youngsters have registered for the programs, while the two week-long programs had 30 and 38 kids, respectively, over the last two years.

Anderson said she developed the idea for the day camps when she and her husband moved to the privately-owned refuge four years ago. She was a teacher with a degree in wildlife management that she said hadn't yet been put to use, and she had worked for several year's in Centre College's summer science camps.

"When that program closed, I just saw a real need for that type of thing to continue," she said.

Robert Anderson installed some multimedia displays in the refuge's nature center, and the summer camp program took off.

Susan Anderson distributes flyers through a number of places, including schools, and she said a number of participants have come from private schools over the past three years.

She said this is an "interest camp," meaning that unlike the school field trips that visit the refuge, this audience is primarily made up of children with an interest in nature and the outdoors.

"I tell our board members all the time, 'We have this absolutely outstanding facility, and we have the opportunity to educate kids for the future,'" Anderson said.

"This is our way of providing not only opportunities now, but for someone in the future to take over where these board members will leave off."

The remaining programs

The remaining programs in the series are:

* Nature Crafts, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. July 13. For children who have completed grades 1-5. Participants will work with a variety of materials found in nature to make several items, including bird feeders, sand candles and picture frames.

* Whooo's in the Forest?, 1-4 p.m. July 15. For children who have completed grades 2-7. An examination of owls and their habits and habitats. Includes a visit to the refuge's bird blind.

The registration fee for the programs is $15 each or two for $25, and space is limited. For information, call Anderson at 859-332-8672.

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