At the beginning of March, Swamp School registration will be open – although, if the event’s past popularity is any indication, maybe not for long.
“Eight minutes, if I’m not mistaken,” said Barry Guillot, Wetlands Watcher sponsor. “All of the sessions filled up within eight minutes.”
Registration officially opens at midnight March 1 for the first of four camp sessions to be held this summer. The second session’s registration opens at midnight on March 2; the third session, midnight on March 3; and the fourth session, midnight on March 4.
Session one will be held June 7-11. Session two will be June 14-18; session three, July 19-23; and session four, July 26-30. Camp days will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. The camp is for children ages 8-12. Registration is $200 per session.
The popular summer camp is offered annually by the St. Charles Parish Department of Parks and Recreation, aimed at cultivating an appreciation for the natural world for its attendees. It achieves this through a balance of educational and entertaining outdoor activities, including canoeing, archery and field games. The spots for the camp traditionally fill the fastest of all of the parish’s camp offerings.
“The kids get in there, go on these adventures they’ve never been part of before and they want to come back every year,” Guillot said. “Many, many of our counselors start off as campers. It’s just really fun to watch kids evolve from coming here to find something to do, to becoming one of our leaders.”
Campers get to hold alligators and snakes one moment before learning to identify plants and learning what role they play in the local environment.
You never know what you might see.
“There have been times we’ve seen over 40 alligators out there,” Guillot said. “Raccoon, garfish, softshell turtles … it’s just neat. We also work in some of the history of the area as well.”
Guillot described the camp as a bit “old school” in that the object is for the campers to not be transfixed by their phones all day – no electronics are allowed. Each day has its own theme to keep things fresh. One day centers around plants, another discovery.
The first day always centers around safety – without that, this camp couldn’t exist.
“We want them to realize that all the things we do here, we can’t without safety,” Guillot said. “This is all about introducing kids to the Louisiana Wetlands in an exciting way, a discovering way, but in an extremely safe atmosphere. We make sure they know what poison ivy looks like. Everything we go through, we make sure it’s as safe as possible.”
Safety extends to pandemic protocols and staying distanced. To that end, Guillot credits Cajun Pride for working out a deal to provide boats for the children when it’s time to get out on the water.
“It’s a 60 person boat, 20 kids on each boat, so we’ll have the space we need for everyone to be spread out,” Guillot said.
While it’s designed to be a fun time for all, Guillot does make it clear: the “school” in Swamp School is not just to make for a catchy name.
“It’s Swamp School, not Swamp Camp, so like it or not, you’re going to learn something,” Guillot said with a laugh. “It’s just school in a fun way.”
This will be the 12th year of Swamp School, and Guillot said everyone who works to make the camp a reality for children each year takes a lot of pride in what it’s become.
“We always want to make it the absolute best experience for these kids. We want them leaving here in awe,” Guillot said.