The annual summertime ritual of kids across America will begin soon, with parents shipping off their young ones into the great outdoors to learn survival skills and the art bonding with other youth their age. It's summer camp, and Palmetto State Park has their own wilderness experience that will be held next month.
Summer Camp Director Jayna Gray, 24, of the Palmetto Explorer Academy is excited about this year's camp and the opportunities it looks to provide to area children. Since 1996 and funded by the Friends of Palmetto, the experience looks to educate in areas of outdoor science and living skills with a lot of environmental education and tons of fun.
Gray is quite familiar with the program, having attended Palmetto camp since she was 3. At 13 she became a camp counselor, and now, the Gonzales grad runs the event, which is held in two sessions, June 4-7 and June 11-14. This will be her third year as camp director, and her regular job as a teacher more than qualifies her to be in charge of a squad of young outdoor enthusiasts.
“It's just something that's been a part of my life,” Gray said of her longtime dedication to the camp. “I want it to be run well and for the other kids to have the same experiences I had.”
Parents can expect a robust week of activities for their kids. A sampling of items include cane pole fishing, hiking and plant identification, pitching a tent, archery, snake identification, water purification methods and basic first aid.
After each day, campers will be treated to some much needed recreation time in the park's swimming lake. There, kids can jump in, have a swim, row a kayak, or chill out on the floating dock right in the middle of the lake. It's a scene right out of any summer camp movie that you might have seen.
And yes, camp counselors and life guards will be there to keep everyone safe.
The goal is to have 32 campers each week. Besides the usual fare, Gray will have her pupils keep a journal of their adventures — not just for learning purposes — but so they can look back years from now on the Summer of 2018. It's those well-rounded experiences that will make for better learning and retention, she said, as well as creating bonds between kids from neighboring towns who otherwise might not have the opportunity to meet new friends.
At the end of the two weeks, campers and their families will be invited back to the park for a celebratory barbecue with desserts and games to create a few more pages of memories in that journal. There might be some surprises, Gray said, and ice cream will definitely be involved.
Camp tuition is $129 per child. Parents can call the park at 830-672-3266 to register or for more information. They are also looking for additional high school volunteers to help during the camp. Volunteers will receive a certificate for their college resume, community service hours, a T-shirt, and “all the left over dutch oven pie and cobbler” Gray said.