The Boone County Conservation District wants to get youth outside to explore their environment. One camp, Camp Ducktails, offers kids ages 4-5 a chance to get up close and personal with nature, through games, stories and hands-on experiences at the Spencer Conservation Area in Belvidere. Camp Redtail, for ages 12-15, will include a caving experience at Maquoketa Caves State Park in Maquoketa, Iowa. Education Director Mark Freedlund said he is excited to see the younger campers explore the natural setting around them, and also to involve the tweens and teens in a caving experience that he believes will promote bonding, self-discovery and a sense of “community” among participants.

While one of the Boone County Conservation District’s (BCCD) summer camps is full, Education Director Mark Freedlund happily announced there are still a few openings for summer fun adventures.

Registration began April 1, he said, and while Camp Redwing for ages 6-11 is now full, one of the camps, Camp Ducktails, for ages 4 and 5, as of press time had openings for July 9-11, July 16-18, July 23-25 and July 30-Aug. 1 (Week 1, from June 25-27 is filled).

Camp Ducktails

The Tuesday and Thursday camps offer different themes each week, the director narrated, including “What’s Wild?,” “Oh, Deer,” “Hiding in Plain Sight” and “Fishing Fun.”

With that age group, he described, activities include game time, crafts, nature walks, stories and “having the kids socialize.”

With each theme, Freedlund continued, “You have a topic that kind of guides you.”

That is, adventures at Spencer Conservation Area, 1121 N. Appleton Road, Belvidere, will include learning about why some animals are called “wild”; and searching for deer tracks while learning about a deer’s habitat: food, water, shelter and space to survive.

Campers will also learn how animals find their food—and they avoid becoming food themselves by hiding from predators.

Finally, campers will learn more about fish with games and a chance to throw in the pole, as well as how to practice water safety.

“They’ll actually get to fish,” Freedlund said enthusiastically.”

The director sounds excited that this age group will be able to learn more about the environment around them, saying, “The focus is that you can discover so much in nature and enjoy nature … connecting with it!”

Camp Ducktails runs from 9-11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and is $60 per weekly session ($70 for non-Boone County residents), and fees are non-refundable after June 1. A 50-percent scholarship discount is available for qualifying families, with a required online application. Limited scholarships are available.

Camp Redtail

The other camp, which as of press time had 8 openings, is Camp Redtail for youth ages 12-15.

This will be a caving trip to Maquoketa Caves State Park in Maquoketa, Iowa, from July 23-26, Freedlund said, and he will be leading the event.

“That’s going to be an amazing trip,” he opined, adding, “I’m really trying to push this. This [camp] is going to be a great experience!”

The director described that there will be caving, hiking on nature trails and camping, explaining, “They [campers] will be going into caves.”

“I’ve been in caves before,” he continued, but since he has not been to this one, “I’ll do a weekend trip before we go there.”

Beyond the caving experience, however, Freedlund sees a real opportunity to reach this pivotal (and possibly challenging?) age group.

This trip, he said, is about “trying new things, meeting new people, doing things where they push themselves a little bit.”

And this caving trip, Freedlund related from experience, is “a safe space where they’re supported to do that.”

As a leader of previous camping experiences that have included canoeing, backpacking and caving, he has observed that these trips are “a formative experience,” in part, because the campers become part of a “community” in which each member helps out.

“When you’re camping, everybody has different jobs,” Freedlund continued. “Everybody has to play a part and help each other.”

The director also said that besides providing a sense of amazement, awe and calm, this type of camping experience “can spark an interest in a career … They could be inspired to go into geology!”

“I get excited about it [camping trips] and energized,” Freedlund shared, adding that his experience also includes involvement with youth trips from his church.

“It’s a privilege to take these kids out to have this experience,” he concluded.

The four-day Camp Redtail costs $220 for Boone County residents and $240 for non-residents. There is a $100 deposit that is non-refundable after June 1.

A 50 percent scholarship is available for qualifying families, and a separate scholarship application must be completed online. Limited scholarships are available.

There is a mandatory parent meeting on July 9 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the BCCD office, 603 N. Appleton Road, Belvidere (campers must already be registered prior to the meeting).

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