DANVILLE – A group of 40 youngsters enjoyed the great outdoors Tuesday during an all-day summer camp at Kennekuk County Park.
Lara Darling, an environmental educator with the Vermilion County Conservation District, said the popular Young Explorers camp was at maximum capacity.
“We have four adult counselors, so we can have 40 kids, and we are filled up,” she said.
Susan Biggs Warner, a naturalist, said the Young Explorers camp has been around for decades.
In fact, Biggs Warner said she remembers attending summer camps at Forest Glen County Preserve when she was a youngster.
“I remember coming to an overnight camp when I was a kid,” she said. “Over the years we’ve done overnight camps, and we’ve done Young Explorers for years.
“We’re doing more specialty camps than we used to,” she added.
The children, who ranged in age from kindergarteners to fifth-graders, started their morning at the historic White Oak Barn before embarking on a nature hike.
They returned to the Environmental Education Center, where they created a dragonfly craft made from long pieces cut from egg cartons and tissue paper-decorated wings.
Children dabbed colorful paint on the egg carton strips that mimicked a dragonfly’s body and glued different colors of tissue paper onto white paper wings that they cut out and then glued onto the dragonfly’s body.
Elli Tittle, 10, patiently helped her little brother, Brantley, 5, cut the fragile tissue paper for his dragonfly’s wings.
Ten-year-old Rylan Leahy said the craft project reminded him of what he had just seen outdoors during the hike.
“When we went on the hike, we saw mushrooms and a weird butterfly. I think it was a damselfly,” Rylan said.
The children made their way back to the White Oak Barn where naturalist Susan Biggs Warner told the youngsters, “You’re going to cook your own lunch.”
Nick Jeurissen, a naturalist, built a campfire and helped dispense hot dogs that children roasted over the fire. For many children, especially the young ones, it was the first time they roasted hot dogs over a fire.
“It was my first time,” 6-year-old Thomas Cahill said. “Usually my mommy makes them.”
Jeurissen showed Thomas how to get his hot dog close to the fire to roast it.
“I’m going to leave it right there,” Thomas said after finding the perfect spot in the campfire coals.
The daylong camp wrapped up with a hayride and a little fishing.
But for Thomas, the highlight of the camp was learning to roast hot dogs.
“I love hot dogs,” he said. “This is the best time ever.”