DARKE COUNTY — The weather was no problem for the 150 second-grade to fifth-grade students attending the first ever Conservation Day Camp hosted by the Darke County Soil and Water Conservation District (Darke SWCD) at Chenoweth Trails Thursday.
There was far too much to look forward to for weather to be a concern, from fishing to building a bird feeder, learning survival skills, how to identify trees, fishing, archery, and more.
The event was the brainchild of sisters Elizabeth Farver with Darke SWCD and Jennifer Yohey, a first-grade teacher with Greenville City Schools. Their father had been a supervisor for Darke SWCD and they grew up with a wealth of outdoor activities, including summer camp. The Conservation Day Camp was an opportunity to share those activities and more with children in the county who may otherwise never experience them.
The camp was also a culmination of what surrounding counties offer, pulling ideas from them as well as adding their own.
Farver explained applying for a grant last fall through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. They settled on a number -150- never expecting the response to be so high with students coming from across the county, from homeschool to public, even Montessori.
“Then the grant writing snowballed,” said Yohey as places in the county jumped on the opportunity to help so every child took home a fishing pole with bobber, tackle, as well as, a bird feeder they built along with bird seed, backpacks with goodies including a journal, UV bracelets, water bottle, a T-shirt, and ID guides.
Businesses came together to help with other needed supplies such as lumber, hammers, nails, eyehooks, and screening for the bird feeders. The Franklin Monroe FFA cut all the lumber for the bird feeders, so the campers only had to hammer the pieces together.
Helen’s Flowers donated buckets of flower petals for the campers to make bookmarkers.
“If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t have done it,” said Farver of all the organizations and individuals who helped make the camp possible. “Anything that we needed, the community members were great.”
Yohey went on to explain how each of the stations along the trails under the direction of area teachers such as station three with Shannon Miller, a Greenville Middle School teacher and her daughter, Paige Miller, a teacher for the Winchester, Ind. school district. Both were assisting campers through the building of their very own bird feeder, showing each child how to hammer the four lumber pieces together, adding a screen to hold the bird seed, and adding eyehooks to hang the feeder at home.
Both Farver and Yohey were grateful for the volunteer teachers at the stations.
“We have really good volunteers, and like our sponsors, it would not be possible [without them],” said Farver going on to explain that each group, a total of 15, were led by volunteer high school and college students.
Other stations included archery, the campers showing amazing, almost immediate skills, along with visiting a watershed station and pollinator station, followed with a break for snacks, and time spent learning to fish.
“How many of the kids have never fished, wouldn’t want to put a worm on a hook?” said Yohey, explaining how some campers had experienced fishing before while many had not. However, once they noted their peers were doing it, they were eager to give it a try.
Talks are already in the works about next year, as Farver and Yohey want to make the camp an annual event.
“Rain or shine,” they echoed.
Conservation Day Camp was not possible without a host of funding and donations from the Darke County Foundation, Light Foundation, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ansonia Lumber, Lowe’s, Pheasants Forever, Ohio Farm Bureau, Darke Soil and Water Conservation District, Aultman Farm and Livestock, Farm Credit-Mid America, Dollar General, Greenville National Bank, Harrod and Harrod Farms LLC, Kevin Jones, Kuntz Ag Products and Services LLC, Leis Realty Co., Nationwide Insurance, Ohio Soybean Farmers, Rural King, Second National Bank, Suncrest Ag LLC, Walmart, Ace Hardware, Helen’s Flowers and Franklin Monroe FFA.