Dale County SWCS/NRCS Host Field Day at Camp Oz
(l-r) James Currington (left), former USDA/NRCS Outreach Coordinator; Rep. Steve Clouse, District 93; producer Earl Snell; and Dale County NRCS DC Josh Elliott discuss the importance of environmental education.
By Janet Benton, Education Specialist, Dale County SWCD, Ozark, AL
Ozark area children once again enjoyed the Camp Oz experience this summer. The camp is now in a new location at the former Eastgate Middle School.
The new facility offers a huge expansion for the camp with a gymnasium and several classrooms that are being used as computer labs and game room spaces. Outdoors the facility offers ten raised garden beds, a soccer field, and tennis courts. Camp Director Ron Caldwell said of the new facility, “Growth in each of the camp’s four sessions has increased from an average of 37 students the first year to 80 students this summer.”
Recently the Dale County SWCD/NRCS hosted a field day at the Camp to teach local leaders the importance of environmental education. In attendance were members of the Dale County Commission, Wiregrass RC&D, AL Cooperative Extension System (ACES), State Representative Steve Clouse, Ozark City Board of Education, and members of the Ozark Department of Leisure Services.
Fun is a big part of the Camp Oz experience, but fun with a purpose is one of the camp’s main objectives. The Dale County SWCD, through an Education Grant awarded by the Wiregrass RC&D Council, helped Camp Oz with funding and educational support. Janet Benton, Dale County SWCD Education Specialist, is presenting several environmental education activities for each camp session.
“Many children do not have the opportunity to experience the natural world first hand. The raised bed gardening and other outdoor and environment-related activities are bridging the gap for these young participants,” Benton explained to the group of visiting officials.
The camp is open to children aged six to fourteen. This is the third year that Ozark’s Department of Leisure Services has hosted Camp Oz. Last year raised bed gardening was added to the camp. The camp consisted of four two week-long sessions in June and July. Camp Oz sessions are primarily being held at Eastgate but students are also transported to the Autrey Center to tend the twenty raised bed gardens. These beds were planted earlier in the season to allow for maturity during the camp sessions.
Other Camp Oz planned activities include trips to Water World, McClelland’s Zoo near Banks, Mabson Forest for a GPS activity, and the grand finale, Camp Oz Fun Day.
Several local businesses and state and federal agencies assisted the city with the project. These include ACES, Dale County SWCD/NRCS, Snell Farms, and Esposito Farms. Echo donated the plants and seeds for the raised bed gardens.
Other contributions were made by K & D Farms in Ariton, First South Farm Credit in Ozark, and Troy Cable Company.
For more information and photos from Camp Oz, visit firstname.lastname@example.org on Facebook.
Raised beds plantings are shown to visitors by student.
Rep. Steve Clouse, tours new facility computer labs.