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Each week, each Counselor teaches usually two different activities that usually relate to nature.  The activities usually run about 45 minutes in length.  The Counselors get to select which activities they would like to instruct depending on their experience and knowledge of the topic.  The weeks at camp are divided into different activity weeks so that a Camper can visit OEL several times a summer and not have the same set of activities. Activities are scheduled to take advantage of weather and wildlife conditions.  Campers will participate in 16 - 20 activities each week in their small groups and will rotate through the staff.
 

Activity Set A   Activity Set B   Activity Set C   Activity Set D

Camouflage

 

Animal Babies

 

Animal Defenses

 

Bird Identification

Dead Tree Ecology

 

Cycles

 

Animal Locomotion

 

Butterflies/Insects

Dinosaurs

 

Fishing

 

Backpacking

 

Creek Ecology

Fishing

 

General Plants

 

Biodiversity

 

Dangerous Animals

GPS

 

Grasshoppers

 

Environmental Impact

 

Fishing

Insects

 

Insect Cages

 

Fishing

 

Flower Identification

Leaf Prints

 

Map and Compass

 

Nature Sounds

 

Fossils

Microscopic Life

 

Paint with Nature

 

Seining

 

Microhabitats

Natural Communities

 

Predator - Food Chain

 

Spiders and Webs

 

Lizards

Scavenger Hunt

 

Reptile Search

 

Tracks

 

Seining

Seining

 

Seining

 

Tree Books

 

Tie-Dye

Snakes Alive

 

Tree Game

 

Turtles

 

 

Below is a brief description of some of the activities that are taught at OEL.  This is not a complete list and some of the activities may have been removed from our lineup.  Also, it is up to each individual Counselor on how to teach and what is covered.  So where the author of this page may teach it one way, another Counselor may teach it a completely different.  Again, it depends on the Counselor's knowledge, experience, teaching style, and available resources.
 


Animal Babies
Everything starts out small and grows.  Animals have many different ways that they bring up their young.  Some help them grow like we do and others simply leave them while they are eggs and hope that everything turns out okay.  Campers will learn an appreciation for the different ways that young are raised.

Animal Defenses
To help an animal to survive from their predators and other natural forces, animals must be able to protect themselves.  While some rely heavily on camouflage, others rely on their speed, while others rely on their size.  Each animal has its own way to defend itself.  A look at some animals that can be commonly found and a look at ourselves is covered in this session.

Animal Locomotion
This activity studies how different animals move.  Some animals swim; some fly; others slither.  Each animal moves in different fashion serving the animal for their environment and for them to survive.  Campers will learn different styles and they usually will get an opportunity to play Animal Charades.

Backpacking
One of the Counselors that has experience in backpacking (usually through scouting) will instruct the Campers on the basics on the topic.  Things usually covered are what to pack, how to setup a tent, what to eat, and other common camping/backpacking issues.  Campers usually get to try on a properly weighted backpack to give them the understanding of the weight and size of the pack along with setting up a tent.

Biodiversity
Each one of our camp sites has several different environments.  Ranging from aquatic to forest life to prairie to others, Campers will see how life is different from environment to environment.  What animals can be found and what plant life exists and what is a force driving the differences is examined.

Bird Houses
To help our bird friends in the forest, during this activity, Campers get a to build a birdhouse.  With a Counselor's aid, the students build a complete birdhouse from regular lumber, artistically decorate the outside of the house, and then take a small hike to find a ideal location for the newly complete house.

Bird Identification
While taking a look at the birds that we have for the Campers to hold, Campers will also be given the opportunity to look towards the sky using some of our high-power binoculars in their search for birds.  They will learn some bird calls and where to find birds.  They will also learn some basic bird identification as well as how to use a Field Guide in the furthering exploration of birds.

Camouflage
When someone is out walking in the forest, they usually miss most of what is around them.  You usually cannot see what is really around unless you look closely.  To protect themselves from animals that would have them for dinner, one of the best defenses is to hide.  To do this, they use their natural camouflage.  During this activity, Campers get a better understand of how animals use camouflage.  The Campers usually played a game which we conveniently call Camouflage.

Canoeing
Each of our campsites features a pond where campers get the opportunity to learn the basics of calm-water canoeing.  They will learn proper use of lifejackets, how to maneuver and control the canoe, along with variations of strokes in the water.  As this is one of our more popular activities, it is featured most weeks.

Creek Ecology
One of the Campers' favorite activity, Campers will get the chance to hike through our creeks and find what life can be found there.  They will also be instructed that everywhere they see, there may be another home for each step that they take, they could be harming the environment.  Though this is taught, it is also a fun chance for them to see up close and personal what really does live in the creek.

Cycles
Most things in nature follow a certain cycle.  Water evaporates, condensates, precipitates (rains, snows, etc), and then evaporates again.  The water that we drink today is the same water that generations before us drank.  Water is not the only thing that goes in cycles.  The air that we breath and the nitrogen in the soil that helps grows our the plants are both examples of cycles in nature.  Campers will learn many cycles and the roles they play in our lives.

Dangerous Animals
Campers will learn what dangerous animals they should be weary of in nature and surrounding their own homes.  Identification of animals they should stay away from is given and what to do if encountered.

Dead Tree Ecology
What could be considered dead at first glace, is often alive with other sources of life.  In this activity, Campers will get a better understanding of what was once a tree is now shelter and food now that it has died.  An extension to other lives besides trees is also given.

Dinosaurs
A closer look at dinosaurs is what this activity is all about.  Usually starting with either a computer program or a glace through a book at some pictures, the activity goes on to cover how a dinosaur lived and why there are no more today.  Sometimes, the Campers will get to create their own dinosaur using paper and things of nature or they may go on a hunt for any possible remains of dinosaurs.

Environmental Impact
This activity takes a closer look at man's role in harming the environment.  It starts off with a discussion of what man has done over the years to harm nature and some things that each of us can do to help make things better.  It is up to each and everyone person to make a difference.  The second half of this activity is spent to a project to help the environment.

Fishing
One of our more popular activities, Campers will get the chance to fish.  We provide all that the campers will need and ask that Campers not bring their own equipment unless they seek proper permission first.  They will be taken to one of the prime fishing areas of the camp and allowed to fish for themselves using bamboo poles.  No fishing permits are needed for this activity.  Campers are encouraged to remove any fish from their own hooks, but a Counselor is always around to help when needed.

Flower Identification
Campers will explore throughout the forest and surrounding areas in search of different flowers and will look them up in Field Guide.  Campers will learn different flower types, basic flower identification, and how to use a Field Guide.

Fossils
Campers will get to explore through the forest in search of remains of life since past.  While searching through different parts of the forest, they will learn what fossils are left behind depending on the animal or plant along with a basic understanding of how fossils are created.

General Plants
In this activity, the Campers will learn about plants in general.  They will learn what a plant needs to live and how they are an important part of the forest and nature.  They will how a plant is broken down into its separate parts along with basic identification of certain plant life that can be found out at camp.

GPS
A GPS, global positioning satellite/system, allows anyone to know their exact location on Earth.  Using these devices, campers will learn how to find items and how to use them for navigation.  Outdoor Education Laboratory has several variations of how to use GPSs - each way is unique.

Grasshoppers
Most people can recognize a grasshopper, but few people really know about them.  During this activity, campers will learn a greater appreciation for the common insect.

Insect Cages
To allow the Camper to study insects up close and personal, we will help them create their own insect cages for them to take home.  Using wire frames and plaster, they will create a small living environment for some insects that they catch at home.

Leaf Prints
To help gain a better understanding of the forest, a look at what trees there are is done.  Each tree has its own unique leaves that help to identify the tree.  In this activity, Campers will usually get the opportunity to create their own leaf books using several drawing techniques demonstrated by the Counselor or the Counselor may have them bring in articles of clothing for them to create a decorative design on.

Map and Compass
To properly navigate through the wild, an understanding of how to read and understand how to use a map and how to properly use a compass.  A brief explanation of each will be given, and then each Camper will be allowed to explore using their own compass that we provide for this activity.  Towards the end of this activity, the Campers will follow a rough map created by the Counselor to find a secret treasure.

Microhabitats
Most of the time, we see things only in the 'big picture.'  We see all of the trees together and say that it is a forest, while in reality, each tree in itself is a complete habitat.  It homes many species of life and grows many things just on the one tree.  Campers in this activity will explore their surrounds in ways they might not usually do.  To aid in their understanding, we provide many tools to help them such as binoculars and magnifying lenses.

Microscopic Life
Using some of our high-powered microscopes, Campers will gather water samples and other life samples to see what is happening close up.  Campers will determine why it is that we do not let them drink from the creek.  They will also see how smaller life forms view the world.

Nature Sounds
Much of the information we as humans gather is from our eyes.  In this activity, Campers will obtain a better understanding of how most of the rest of nature that relies on sounds along with their other senses interact with their surroundings.

Paint with Nature
One of our favorite activities to instruct is Paint with Nature.  Campers are usually asked to bring out a t-shirt or other article of clothing that they would like to paint on.  They go out into the forest and find natural dyes such as berries to use for their art work and begin their painting.

Predator Food Chains
From the Disney movie The Lion King, one learns that everything follows the circle of life. In this activity, Campers get a better understanding of how nature works.  They learn that everything must eat something to survive -- even we as humans eat cows and other animals. 

Reptile Search
Several of our Counselors are very interested in reptiles and will lead the Campers on a search for the little critters.  Campers will learn how to safely locate and observe reptiles in their natural habitat - for example, turtles resting on a log in a pond or lizards climbing on a log.  Campers will learn how to return things the way they find them in nature, as well as where are good places to search for reptiles.

Scavenger Hunt
The Counselor devises a list of certain things relating to nature to find out a camp.  This activity is usually taught in the second half of the week and builds upon topics that were covered in the first half of the week.  For example such as certain flowers from Flower Identification.  A reward is usually given to any camper that completes the hunt.

Seining
Usually one of our more popular activities, Campers get the chance to transverse through the creek in search of 'food.'  With the Counselor's aid, Campers use a large seining net in stretch it across the creek and wade through it while other Campers cross from the other side trying to scare crawfish and other small aquatic life into the net.

Snakes Alive
While many people are often afraid of snakes at first mostly through misunderstandings and myths created long ago, snakes are truly a wonderful reptile.  Campers will get a chance to hold some of our snakes while they learn about each of the snakes.  They will learn basic identification, how they live, which ones to avoid, and other aspects relating to snakes.  We only keep harmless snakes borrowed from local schools that are used to being handled..

Social Insects
Some animals do not interact much with their own species such as opossums and raccoons.  On the other hand, some animals rely heavily on one another.  For example, ants have a different jobs depending on their 'social status' within the ant group.  They work as a team.  In this activity, a closer look will be given to how certain insects interact with one another of their own kind.

Spiders and Webs
Spiders, though often seen as things of fright, are very helpful creatures.  They eat many of the insects that pester humans such as flies and mosquitoes.  A closer look at many types of spiders, facts of them, and different types of webs are covered.  In the second part of the activity, the Campers will go out into the forest and look at the webs that they most likely missed on the morning nature-hike.

Tracks
Each animal leaves behind some trace that it was there.  While some are very hard to find, others are not.  While walking along the creek bed, Campers may see tracks of raccoons, opossum, dear, and other animals in the forest.  With the Counselor's aid, the Campers will make molds using plaster of the tracks they find to allow them to take that track home.  Also available, depending on time, are rubber molds of different tracks such as bears and other animals they may not find out at camp.

Tree Books
Students will learn a basic understand of trees, how they work, and why they are there.  After learning the basics, they will be given the opportunity to make a tree book to take home.  The style of the book and what all goes in it is up to the Counselor to decide.

Tree Game
Campers should always have fun with nature and education.  To help convey a true interest in nature, students first learn about trees and then play an exciting game to help reinforce what they just learned.

Turtles
There are many different types of turtles that can be found at both of our campsites.  Both feature a variety of land and water turtles.  Besides those found naturally, Outdoor Education Laboratory has several different type of captive turtles that can be held and studied closer.  Do you know the difference between a red-eared slider and a river cooter?

Water Safety
Since water is all around us in nature -- in lakes, ponds, and streams -- a better appreciation of the water is needed.  Taught by one of our certified lifeguards, students in this activity get a brief lesson on how to save someone's life in the water if they are the only one around.  Also covered are the pool rules of the camp.  For full participation of this session, no student needs to enter the pool, but during the hotter weeks, the option is usually given if they are properly dressed.


On most weeks, we also have a large group project where the Campers will work in the small groups with their Morning Counselor.  Each group is then positioned against the other groups, usually divided by age groups to give a more fair chance to the younger Campers, to compete for prizes.  These activities are sometimes variations of a few of the above covered, some are only for use with this competition, and others are just games that we play.  Each of these special activities keeps our focus of interaction with nature in mind.

 

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