4-H2O camp explores our ecosystem

Clemson offers hands-on study of local environment

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How important is water to the environment? Sumter County's Clemson Extension office will offer a day camp Aug. 8 and 9 for young people ages 9 to 14 that should answer that question. During the two days of 4-H2O, campers will explore the areas plants and animals, with a focus on watersheds.

Katie Altman-Goff, water resources agent with Clemson, said the two-day camp, presented in conjunction with Central Carolina Technical College at the CCTC Natural Resources Management Facility at 735 W. Brewington Road, is a fun, hands-on way to learn about the environment, including the health of the plants and animals found in and around the bodies of water at the site - and the water itself.

"We'll have guided hikes, fishing, some hands-on animal programs, and we'll collect some insects," she said.

Altman-Goff and Josh Castleberry, the head of CCTC's Natural Resources Management Program, will identify and provide information about the "bugs" collected, their individual traits and their impact on the environment.

"We'll actually 'build' a bug to show its different traits," Altman-Goff said.

Campers will also "learn how the insects in the water are an indication of how good the water is. We'll also have field guides and teach campers how to use them," she said.

In addition to learning about the watershed, plants and animals that depend on it, campers will also learn about the college classroom, as Altman-Goff and Castleberry will spend a portion of each day with them inside the CCTC facility.

"They'll learn about the different jobs available in natural resources, for one thing," Altman-Goff said. "The CCTC facility is 100 acres with a classroom. Also, they'll learn about prescribed burns and the safety measures they take."

Prescribed, or controlled, burns are performed by the Forest Service in cooler months in order to reduce the amount of available fuel for larger fires. They are an important part of forest fire prevention and control.

In addition to CCTC, Carolina Clear, Sumter Stormwater Solutions and 4-H, all services of Clemson Extension, are sponsoring the camp. Terri Sumpter, the extension's 4-H agent, will also participate in the camp.

Students should pack a lunch, but water and other beverages and snacks will be provided. Fishing equipment and materials for take-home crafts will also be furnished to the students.

At the end of the camp, students will come away with increased knowledge about water bodies; what makes for a healthy water body, how that health is measured, what lives in the area's water system and how it affects our ecosystem. How we human beings affect our own environment is an important part of the science learned during the camp.

The hands-on science inquiry program also teaches participants the field, analytical and critical thinking skills they need to participate knowledgably in decision making that affects the quality of the ecosystem.

Altman-Goff said, "I wish they'd have had a camp like this when I was that age (9 to 14)!"

She said Clemson Extension presents the 4-H2O camp each summer. There are only 20 slots for students 9 to 14 years of age in the Aug. 8 and 9 camp, which will meet on those days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at CCTC's Natural Resources Management Facility, 735 W. Brewington Road, near the Sumter Airport. Tuition is $20 per student, and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Students should wear comfortable clothes and sneakers or water shoes - no flip flops permitted.

For more information or to register, contact Altman-Goff or Terri Sumpter at (803) 773-5561 or email klaltma@clemson.edu or tsmptr@clemson.edu.