Wings, paws, scales & claws

Conservation camp teaches kids about the environment

KATHRYN KLINE / THE EXPRESS The campers at the 2019 Conservation Summer Day Camp pose for a picture, along with EMT Sarah Conroy and Conservation Officer Mike Ondik.



LAMAR — This year marks the 28th Annual Conservation Summer Day Camp at the Sieg Conference Center — a week-long day camp where local kids participate in hands-on activities that allow them to learn about the environment in exciting ways.

The camp is organized and sponsored by the Clinton County Conservation District, with a group of counselors and educators led by Camp Director Toby Boyer and Manager Mary Ann Bower.

This year’s theme was “Wings, Paws, Scales & Claws.”

Campers attended the camp Monday, Aug. 5 through Friday, Aug. 9 — with one overnight stay at the conference center on Thursday.

“I love seeing how excited the kids get about learning about the environment,” Bower said. “It is a good feeling.”

Conservation Camp is for any Clinton County or Keystone Central School District student who has completed the 4th, 5th, or 6th grade, and the total cost per student is $85 for the week, though partial scholarships are available to eligible students through the Conservation District.

Campers get to participate in a variety of exciting educational activities throughout the week, including fishing, making bird boxes, tying flies, studying wildlife, and several field trips, such as visiting Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park and a fish hatchery.

Kids also get to hear from local environmental experts, including biologists, geologists, and natural resource professionals, who conduct presentations throughout the week.

“It’s enjoyable giving them knowledge and allowing them to have hands-on experience with the environment,” said Conservation Officer Mike Ondik, who volunteers at the day camp.

Other volunteers included Scott Koser, former camp director, and Sarah Conroy, an EMT who was on the scene for emergencies.

Sara Embick, a recent LHU graduate with a major in Recreation Management and a minor in Environmental Studies, who is interning for the Clinton County Conservation District this summer, was a big part of the camp.

One activity Embick led the campers in was dissecting sterilized barn owl pellets — a unique learning opportunity, where the kids were able to see the contents of the pellets, which typically include things like bones, feathers, and teeth.

“This is my second year interning and I just really have enjoyed it,” Embick said. “I like learning about the environment in the area and what is around me locally.”

Another educational activity included constructing bird boxes, with each camper putting together their own bird box, which they are able to take home.

This camp teaches participants tangible skills that will benefit them in the future, from how to use basic tools, to how to spot and identify different wildlife.

The counselors and leaders provide a safe space for local kids to learn about the environment — which, someday, they will be in charge of taking care of.

“Getting to know the kids is the best part, and you end up seeing them during the school year and throughout their education, such as at the high school level with EnviroThon,” Bower said. “Many of them continue on a path related to the environment.”

For more information about the Conservation Summer Day Camp, the Clinton County Conservation District, or local environmental activities for kids, call (570) 726-3798 or visit http://clintoncountypa.com/departments/conservation–district/education/.