By Lois Mittino Gray
It was a blazing hot summer day, but junior high students attending the ‘Wild About Nature’ wildlife adventure camp thought it was very cool to find a bobcat track in the creek mud in the deep shady ravine near trail two in Harmonie State Park. They watched intently as Park Naturalist Amelia Wildeman demonstrated how to make plaster casts of the unusual track to take home.
Making plaster casts of real animal tracks and learning how to use rubber molds to make them was only one topic in a two-day camp for students in grades six, seven, and eight. Two sessions of the camp were offered on June 18 and 19 and on June 25 and 26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ten to twelve students attended each session at no cost and learned about nature, received a tee shirt and enjoyed free swimming in the late afternoon. The event was generously sponsored by the Friends of Harmonie Group to develop park appreciation through education. Many of the binoculars, bird guides and field equipment used came from a grant received last year from the Posey County Women’s Foundation.
Friends of Harmonie group members Denny Hargett, Rose Overton and Ed Hirsch helped the naturalist with all camp activities. Hargett is in charge of the park bluebird box trail and he supervised the students in making their own bluebird boxes from old barnwood he supplied. Campers also helped him check at least a dozen of the park’s boxes and Wildeman reported they found ‘all kinds of things in them, including baby bluebirds, baby chickadees and eggs.’ She said they loved seeing the flash of bright blue as an adult bluebird flew protectively past them.
On the first day of each session, Dennis Hermann of Big Creek Honey Farm spoke on the natural history of honeybees and environmental concerns they face in the future. Wildeman showed models of the Monarch Butterfly life cycle and discussed how they rely on milkweed to thrive. The students looked closely at milkweed and its cousin, butterfly weed and were able to find monarch eggs on the stems.
The second morning was spent looking for secrets and signs of animals down in the creek beds. Fun finds included the bobcat track, woodpecker holes, caterpillars rolled up in leaves and box turtles. After plaster casting, students listened to a talk given by two representatives from the Nature Conservancy.
The two men are working on a project at Posey County’s Half Moon Pond replanting the native giant cane plant indigenous to these parts. The students learned the tricks to planting and then set off to replant some by the oil wells down in the park floodplain. A stream bank was eroded and the plant was moved in to help stabilize the soil. “Even though it was hot and buggy, the students must have enjoyed it. They fought over using the shovel.” Wildeman said.
“They did something for the future and they liked that. It was really hot during the camps but we all had fun. They must’ve had a good time. Everyone said see you next year as they left,” mused Naturalist Amelia as she thought back on the summer camps sessions with a hot, tired smile.
By Lois Mittino Gray