2004-01-16 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken

By Elisa Hinken

Winter is a perfect time to think about warm things, like summer ac tivities for our pre-teen and teen pop ulation. The New York State Dep art ment of Environmental Con ser vation runs three youth camps upstate at different sites. Camps Col by, DeBruce and Rushford educate youth 12 to 14 years old. Camp DeBruce is the closest camp to our location, in Livingston Manor, Sul livan County. The summer of 1998 marked the opening of a new camp at Pack Forest in the southern Ad iron dacks, where DEC offers week-long Ecology Workshops for teens 15 - 17 years old. The cost of attending the one week session is $225 and includes meals. Youth may only attend one week per year at the DEC education camps.

The DEC camp program consists of a variety of workshops and activities which are designed to help the camp ers become more aware of the environment around them and, perhaps, stimulate their desire to participate in the sound management of our natural resources. The activities and workshops, a blend of learning and recreation, are conducted outdoors providing the camper with direct hands-on with their environment.

Camp curriculum includes a very active series of activities which are designed to encourage campers to interact, communicate, and cooperate with one another. The campers will be provided with a number of challenge-type situations where they must work together to find solutions. Campers learn that they must depend on one another to accomplish certain goals and at the same time they discover some of their own personal strengths and abilities.

Before campers can begin to grasp environmental issues and contemplate solutions to complex problems, they must understand the most fundamental ecological principles. To achieve this level of understanding, the camp ers will look at the concepts of energy flow, cycles, diversity, community, in ter relationship, change, and adaptation. This activity-oriented workshop sets the stage for more detailed workshops that will be carried out during the remainder of the week.

Another concentration is freshwater. Campers consider the importance of water as they investigate the complex interrelationships between aquatic plants and animals and the physical factors that affect them. To discover more about aquatic communities and the importance of water, campers might perform water-testing experiments, collect and compare organisms that live in ponds, lakes, and streams, and discuss water use and management. Campers will get wet during this study and thus old sneakers/shoes (or water shoes!) are recommended gear to bring to camp.

Campers also go out into the fields to explore and to gain an appreciation for meadow communities. Campers discover the complex interrelationships that exist between organisms which live in fields, as well as those of organisms which are not field dwellers but still depend on fields. Campers might collect and compare different field organisms and construct a food web to discover how those organisms are dependent upon one another. The use of a line transect can be used to study the stages of field succession.

And, if all that isn't enough, with all the necessary equipment, campers head to the forests where they will discover the complex interrelationships between organisms and begin to see the similarities between all communities (field, forest, and water). Campers might learn how to identify trees, search for animal homes, play a predator-prey game, or discuss forest management while using various tools of the professional forester, such as a Biltmore stick and an increment borer.

The week draws to a close as camp ers consider the role of humans as a member of the earth's environment. In this workshop, campers develop their understanding of human interrelationships and dependence on our natural resources. Campers learn how to debate future resource needs, become more resource conscious at home through activities, or decide upon a conservation project which could improve some aspect of their hometown environment.

All this for $225.00 for the week, including room and board. A WONDERFUL opportunity like this fills up fast so applications should be mailed by March. For more information, or to request an application by mail, please call or write to:

NYSDEC Camps, 625 Broadway;

2nd Floor, Albany, NY 12233-4500

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