Sixth graders enjoy winter camp

This article submitted by Erin Aagesen on 1/19/00.

Winter camp Ninety–six Paynesville sixth graders attended winter camp from Jan. 5–7 at Long Lake Conservation Center near Aitkin, Minn. Although a lack of snow prevented the group from enjoying many traditional winter camp activities such as snowshoeing and cross country skiing, the students remained busy throughout their stay learning more about conservation and the environment and enjoying the outdoors.

One activity that was a universal favorite among students and chaperones was Alpha Wolf. In this game, groups of ten students were tied together with a rope to simulate a pack of wolves. They were sent into the woods at night to find the Alpha Wolf, guided only by the interchange of howls between themselves and the Alpha. "One of my favorite things we did was the Alpha Wolf game,"explained John Hemingson. "One of the reasons was that it took some time to find Alpha Wolf." Jessie Lahr liked the game because "we got to go into the woods at night with nothing but the moonlight."

Another highly praised activity was called Snakes Alive. The students were shown a seven-foot-long boa constrictor, a bull snake, a hog-nose snake, and a garter snake. In order to demonstrate the snakes’ sensitive sense of smell, snakes were put on the heads of four different students. Those with products such as hair spray or gel in their hair were given much more attention by the snakes. Courtney Colbert was one of those that experienced this. She said, "My favorite thing about winter camp was having the snake on my head. It was very cool because I could hear the tongue coming in and out of its mouth."

In Who Gives a Hoot?, the students were taught about birds of prey. As a review after the lecture, one student was dressed in a costume that demonstrated different ways birds of prey are successful in staying alive.

In Thicket, the predator would have to stand in one place and try to spot the hidden prey in the woods, while the prey had to be able to view the predator at all times. "I liked it because it was like you were an animal hiding from the predators," said Cody Block.

Quick Frozen Critters was a role playing game about predator/prey relationships. According to Bob Bowden, sixth grade teacher and chaperone, the game helped the students learn about habitat and survival in the wilderness. Scott George, another teacher and chaperone, said that he felt the students enjoyed this game the most. "It was fun acting as lynx, hares, and hunters," said Jacquelyn Hertzberg, adding, "but you can get tired from all the running."

In the Deer Browse, groups of three acted as one deer trying to collect browse, or the tips of small trees and popple, for food. Each group member had a different role; as the eyes, the pruner, or the stomach. The students had to collect a certain amount in a set time period in order to stay alive. In order to keep the game moving, adults would act as wolves trying to capture the deer. "Normally, lots of deer die, but this year there was lots of vegetation because there was little snow, so most of them stayed alive," said George.

Other activities included an orienteering race on the last day and a lake walk (pictured above. Some things spotted on the walk were: a beaver lodge, deer tracks, a dead deer, a woodpecker, and a porcupine den. The students also were able to taste wild berries and tea leaves.

Both students and chaperones stated that they enjoyed the food prepared for them at camp. One meal, however, was made by the students themselves in the woods. Emily Mohr described the experience: "The wilderness meal was loads of fun. We picked sticks and put them in a pile. We had hot dogs, hot dog buns, cookies, hot chocolate, cheese, and apples for our meal. One person had to light the fire and we had to make the food ourselves."

Another requirement was that each group received only one match to light their fire. If their first attempt failed, they had to trade a cookie for an additional match. "I liked when we did the lunch out in the forest because our group was good with fire," said Greg Price.

Students also had time to spend time in their bunks. For many, this was a new and exciting experience. "Spending time with my friends in our room was one of my favorite things about winter camp," said Hertzberg. "My friends and I had so much fun, joking around and things like that."

Although the students had fun, they did not go overboard. George said there were very few behavior problems, and that this was one of the best groups he’s ever taken to winter camp. Joining George and Bowden in chaperoning were: Kim Gulbranson, Andy Mueller, Don Whitcomb, Jerry Mehr, Nan Looman, Laurie Nepsund, Brenda Kochmann, and Kelly Schmitz.

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