Kids will get down, dirty at Swamp School

Fishing, canoeing and target shooting on tap at unique summer camp


May 17, 2012 at 10:17 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Reality shows that take place in the picturesque swamps of Louisiana are a national craze and St. Charles Parish will try to offer that same sense of adventure to children in the area this summer.

For the first time, the parish will host a Swamp School at the Wetland Watchers Park in Norco. Some of the activities offered at the camp include fishing, crabbing, archery, canoeing and photography. The camp, which is being put on by the St. Charles Parish Department of Parks and Recreation, was the brainchild of Harry Hurst teacher Barry Guillot and Satellite Center facilitator Craig Howat.

"There are so many kids that live in the parish that have never been crabbing or fishing. They do not realize the wide variety of wildlife that we have in the area ranging from bald eagles to bobcats," Guillot said. "Craig and I sat down and made a list of all of our favorite things to do in the outdoors ranging from fishing, crabbing, target shooting, archery, canoeing, photography, critter collection and identification.

"Guess what…we are doing all of this during the week of Swamp School."

Guillot said that Wetland Watchers Park, which is located in the Bonnet Carre Spillway, is the perfect place to host such a camp. The area features outdoor classrooms, a playground, boardwalks and a grand pavilion. It sits on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

"The nearest place you could go to walk on a beautiful boardwalk nature trail (before construction of the Wetland Watchers Park) was Jean Lafitte National Park," Guillot said. "We have some of the most beautiful wetlands in Louisiana right here in St. Charles Parish."

Shows like "Swamp People" have shone a light on the beautiful Louisiana outdoors and Guillot said that has helped get kids interested in having their own adventures.

"There are probably about 20 high-rated shows including the family that makes duck calls to the groups that compete diving for the biggest catfish. I think all of America looks at swamps and bayous as a place of mystery and adventure," Guillot said. "Through St. Charles Parish Swamp School, the students will be able to experience that adventure in a safe and controlled environment."

Along with fun activities like fishing and target shooting, part of the camp will focus on team-building.

"Most of what we will be doing are team challenges, one of which is using provided materials to cross a mock ‘alligator infested’ river safely," Guillot said. "Another activity is alligator wrestling, where teams of two compete to pop an inflated alligator."

And the children will get in a heavy dose of outdoor learning as well.

"We want to take advantage of the outdoor classrooms so Swamp School is 100 percent learning by doing," Guillot said. "The students will leave Swamp School knowing so much about wetland food webs, plant and animal adaptations, and overall how biotic and abiotic factors work together making the coastal wetlands of Louisiana one of the nation’s most productive and important assets in terms of habitat and wildlife diversity."

The camp is for children entering fourth through sixth grades. There will be two separate camp sessions, with the first taking place from June 4-8. The second session will run from June 11-15.

Camp days last from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. with extended days lasting from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. The cost is $150 per week per camper or $200 per week for the extended days. Campers must bring their own lunch, snacks, sunscreen and bug spray. Guillot and Howat will serve as the camp’s instructors.

Space is limited to about 30 students. For more information contact Howat at (504) 919-7875 or chowat@cox.net or visit www.wetlandwatchers.org.




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