Rural Missouri - September 2012 - (Page 8)

Noa Emerson, 11, a camper from Jefferson City, loves when the group heads down the road to Sugar Creek for an afternoon of fun. Her favorite thing? To catch and release frogs. Where the Wild Things Are I by Heather Berry t’s already a stifling 103 degrees by noon, but that isn’t hindering this energetic group of 8- to 12-year-olds from having fun. The boys and girls just finished cutting cedar branches to complete their outdoor shelters, identifying trees and ziplining 327 feet through the woods. Next, they’re piling into vehicles and heading with their counselors for an hour or two of ecology lessons and cooling off in Sugar Creek. Life is good. These kids are attending Wild Camp, an outdoor nature day camp in Meta. Here, the kids get to be outdoors from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and experience what nature has to offer. “Our hope is that the kids learn to appreciate the outdoors and come to realize how important it is to be outside,” says Jan Syrigos. Jan, her husband, George, and daughter, Sophia, 12, started Wild Camp four years ago on their home’s 52 acres to offer kids an alternative to the usual sport or indoor day camps. “Here, we disconnect the kids from their cell phones, computers and Nintendo and plug them into nature,” says Jan. “They might not love it at first, but most of them are sad when the week comes to an end.” The Syrigos’ love of the outdoors and love for children prompted them to start this unique day camp. Former naturalists for the Missouri Department of Conservation, the couple takes its outdoors expertise and turns it into an enrichment experience for campers. Through hands-on activities, the youth also learn teamwork, problem-solving skills and respect for others. “We want to teach them to survive in the wilderness,” says Jan. “So we teach them things like how to build a fire, shelter, archery skills, cooking outdoors and how to identify plants and animals that are poisonous or venomous.” The couple currently holds two summer day camps — one in July and one in early August — along with one two-day winter camp between Christmas and New Year’s while kids are on school break. The kids stay outside all day during the winter camp no matter what the temperature, but other life skills are taught, such as tracking, setting a snare and hiking. It only takes one camper asking, “What’s next?” for the kids to learn to relax and enjoy the outdoors. “We have this saying at camp: ‘Participate, don’t anticipate,’” says George. “We keep them hydrated, covered in bug spray, safe and busy, but we don’t give them a schedule of what we’re doing. That keeps the kids relaxed, going One day camp brings the heart of the wild to the heart of the child with the flow and having fun.” Jan says statistically, kids spend only 15 minutes a day outdoors, but they spend hours a day in front of • electronic screens. Meta “When we were kids, we played outside all day until our parents had to call us inside for dinner,” George adds. “We played in the creeks, got dirty, rode bicycles until dark. You don’t hear that now.” While some of the kids who come to the day camp live in the country, many don’t. The Syrigos have horses, cats, a dog and quite a few chickens, and Jan says some kids aren’t used to seeing those critters roaming around. “We always have a few kids who are so excited to help collect the chicken eggs from the hen house because they’ve never done that before,” says Jan. “It’s a big deal to some of them.” The first morning of camp, name tags are made from round slices of wood, water bottles are labeled, lunch packs are put into coolers and then everyone gathers on benches beneath the walnut trees. Bug repellant applied and rules reviewed, the campers are Left: Even a dragonfly sunning on a rock begs to be studied.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - September 2012

Rural Missouri - September 2012
Table of Contents
Where the wild things are
Hit the trail
Plowing forward with a new tradition
Out of the Way Eats
Devastating drought
Hearth and Home
Closing the gateway
Around Missouri
A man & his monsters

Rural Missouri - September 2012