Camp for kids encourages them to be active, love nature

Published 10:15 am Monday, July 13, 2015

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye  Campers take part in a "Rabbit Dash" during animal exercises.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Campers take part in a “Rabbit Dash” during animal exercises.

This week, high on a mountain top, young people gathered to spend time outdoors, learn new skills and earn the right to be called Junior Rangers.
Each year, Roan Mountain State Park hosts Junior Ranger Camp, a special program for children 8-12 that hopes to encourage not only a love of nature but an active lifestyle as well.
As part of the program, the children get to learn practical skills such as first aid, plant identification and fishing. The campers also get up and moving in the outdoors through hikes, games and the ever-popular Junior Rangers Challenge Course — an obstacle course filled with tasks such as climbing logs and balance beams designed to test the campers.
This week concluded Friday night with a special ceremony during which the campers receive their badges and got to relax with their families and watch a slide show of pictures taken during the week.
Despite the fact some of the challenges can be difficult, the campers really enjoy the program.
“The teachers are really nice to us, and they always make sure we’re safe,” said 9-year-old Karlee Llody of Elizabethton. “When we go on hikes we always learn about the plants and animals.”
Another first-time camper also enjoyed the chance to learn new skills.
“I like how we learned about first aid,” said Brett Grubb, age 10, of Ashe County, N.C. “I also like how we got to make chain men,” he said of Thursday’s project to make a survival key chain from parachute cord.
While there were several campers enjoying their first time at Junior Ranger Camp, the program has been so popular that there are also several campers who return year after year.
“Technically, my fourth year is this year,” said 10-year-old Jacob Street of Roan Mountain.
Street really enjoys the outdoor activities such as hiking and the obstacle course.
“I like the course even though it’s kind of easy, but if you new it can be hard,” he said. “Just yesterday we went fishing and I enjoyed that.”
Another repeat Junior Ranger also had high praise for the outdoor adventures.
“I like it most of all when we get to go in the woods,” said 11-year-old Nicholas Swiney of Roan Mountain. “I especially like the zip line on the challenge course.”
Roan Mountain State Park started the Junior Ranger Camp in 2009, and in it’s inaugural year it won an award for Best Interpretive Program from the Tennessee State Park system. Since then, the Junior Ranger program has been picked up by other parks.

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