On Break: Nature camp nurtures love of conservation

NEWPORT BEACH — Made of sticks wrapped with silver duct tape, the toy boat looked more like an arts and crafts paperweight than a seafaring vessel.

But 11-year-old Henry Eo's cheers of delight rang loud and clear as his handmade boat stayed above the water.

"It floats!" yelled the Mariners Elementary School fifth-grader.

The activity — seeing if boats constructed from found material in nature would float in the creek — was one of three that children participated in Thursday, the last day of the Environmental Nature Center's Winter Nature Camp.

Children in kindergarten through sixth grade spent four days at the more than 3-acre nature center learning animal appreciation, outdoor survival and exploring ecosystems in three classes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"I like playing with my friends and learning new things," said Eastbluff Elementary School first-grader Ryley Hewison, 6.

For some students, the day camp is their first real experience in nature, and they don't know if they should be on the lookout for bears, said Director of Education Lori Whalen.

The goal, though, is to teach students the importance of conservation by sneaking in small lessons like bringing reusable lunchboxes.

"They're having an amazing fun time while learning, but not knowing that they are learning," she said.

Henry, who recently moved to Newport Beach from Korea, came to his first camp to work on his new language.

"First time I want to learn English, so I came here, but when I come here, it's so beautiful I want to come back," he said.

Eight-year-old Sebastian Nowlan, a camp veteran, said he learns about a new animal every day, draws a picture of it, then puts it in a journal he made to remember the activity.

He learned about mountain lions and hawks, and got to touch a snake named Diamond and a tarantula named Rosi.

"I think it's really fun," he said, "and you learn a lot of stuff about nature and you make really cool stuff."


Twitter: @BritneyJBarnes

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