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The course is part of a new spring break camp organized by Roanoke County’s parks and recreation department.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Nine-year-old Ben Tatum wondered what would happen to him and his fellow campers if they couldn’t navigate their way out of the woods.
“What if we get lost and never see our parents again?” he asked.
Ben’s group spent Friday learning about wilderness skills as part of a new spring break camp organized by Roanoke County’s parks and recreation department.
The five campers who participated Friday learned about compasses and maps before heading out on a hike and later learning about what’s edible in the outdoors before breaking for lunch. On the docket for the afternoon were lessons in creating fire and shelter.
Out in the woods of Camp Roanoke, a few campers walked ahead while others stayed back monitoring their compasses, making sure their peers were on course and offering directions.
“You guys aren’t following. Left, left, left,” Ben yelled. “Good, good, good.”
Trudging through the snowy woods, the 9-year-olds were undeterred by the unusual springtime conditions created by a surprise April storm that blanketed the region with snow the evening before. Their yelling and laughter pierced the quiet of the sprawling camp, which is owned by Roanoke County.
Erin O’Donnell, an environmental educator with the county, led the group Friday. She said beforehand that the idea of a camp where students would learn wilderness skills is something she wanted to try out. Originally slated to last several days, the camp was abbreviated to just a day because of low participation.
O’Donnell said the camp is an opportunity for children to learn outdoor skills and how to work together.
“I think the importance lies in being able to work as a team,” she said. “A lot of these activities that we’ll be doing are great team-building activities as well. Also, it’s just important for kids to spend some time outdoors.”
Friday’s crew certainly appeared to enjoy their time traipsing through the outdoors. They were particularly enthralled with the lesson on what they could find and eat.
They dined on chocolate covered crickets made by O’Donnell (crunchy, but tasty) and even sampled some pine needles as they walked along a trail. They learned to stay away from berries, but that stink bugs soaked in water and later roasted could be a good source of protein.
Ben, who initially wondered about being lost in the woods, said he was having fun and liked learning to use a compass.
“I like challenging problems,” he said, adding that the navigation was tough. “I think challenging things are fun.”
He also knowingly explained that the news is always full of stories about people getting lost hiking.
“It’s really important for people to know these tricks to stay safe,” he said.
His fellow campers agreed.
“The compass is good so you don’t get lost and you’re in the woods for two weeks,” 9-year-old Graham Sherman said.
Chap Hale, also 9, chimed in.
“You might get lost and have to stay in the woods forever.”
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