Catawba Conservation Camp

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2011

(Catawba College News Service)
Catawba Conservation Camp (C3) is a weeklong residential science camp open to girls who are enrolled in public or private school or who are home schooled in Rowan, Cabarrus, Iredell, Davie, Davidson and Stanly counties.
Participating students not only stay in a college dorm, but they band birds, explore lakes and woods, identify and tally plant life, explore amphibian and aquatic life such as frogs, fish and turtles, examine insects and make new friends who love science.
Camp director is Dr. Cyndi Osterhus, director of Catawba’s Academy for Teaching. Science instruction will be facilitated by a team of public school teachers and college faculty.
The camp, funded through a grant from Burroughs Wellcome Fund, is an effort to interest girls in the environmental sciences. The grant allows funding for all costs, except for a student’s $25 non-refundable registration fee and transportation to and from the college.
The following reflections on last summer’s camp were written by by Jessica Everett, Catawba College’s 2009 Martha West Teaching Scholar.
C-3 Campers began their journey with us in July 2010 with a weeklong, residential science camp experience on the Catawba campus. There could not have been a better way to conclude the 2010-11 chapter of this second group of conservation campers than to take the young group of middle school girls to the Mary L. Farm in Mt. Ulla. This organic dairy farm gave the campers the ultimate field-trip experience.
We arrived early in the morning and split up into two rotating groups that jumped to different areas of the farm. My group of girls began with a lesson on soil and plants in which they dissected the earth and various fruits and vegetables to learn about what it takes to grow crops organically. They learned about the effects that inorganic farming has on the environment.
We then enjoyed a picnic with some special guests. Anne Ellis and Lisa Wear from Horizons Unlimited in Salisbury, Kiersten (Kacy) Cook, a Land Conservation Biologist for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, Cynthia (Cyndi) Hill, an ARCB Certified Reflexologist and NCRA President, Mandy Moore Bloom, a Catawba alumna and full time mom and volunteer for Catawba Lands Conservancy, as well as Tabitha J. Whitson, a Catawba alumna and Lab Analyst II for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities, all joined the campers for lunch.
This was an excellent experience as the campers got to meet and talk with women who had graduated from college and gone on to hold positions in environmental science to volunteer in the field. It was essential for our young campers to see the opportunities that they have, not only as females, but also as student scientists on their way to a bright future full of possibilities in the workplace.
After lunch, we visited the baby animals of the Mary L. Farm. Campers got to hold and learn about baby chicks, calves, a hen, and a kid (baby goat). Some even fed milk to calves with a bottle.
The groups then headed on to learn about one of the more overlooked essential ingredients to running a farm – manure. Between the giggles about the importance of “poop” and how it is used to fertilize the soil of the Mary L. Farm, the girls actually got to apply the terms of H.I.P.P.O (habitats, invasive species, pollution, population and over-harvesting) to fertilization and the importance of using it correctly.
The day ended with a brief tour of the milking facilities. While the dairy is equipped with automated milking machines, the girls even got to milk the cows, which I learned was an acquired skill and harder then it looks.
The exchange of farewells, phone numbers, and addresses was bittersweet as our journey with this group of C3 Campers came to an end. I could not have imagined a better way to learn about organic farming than to literally visit it where the girls could touch, feed, and see all the components come into play.
I’m sure our 2010 C-3 campers have created life-long connections with each other and I hope they will remember this experience for the rest of their lives because, as a counselor for the camp, I know I will.