It’s 9:10 on Thursday morning and a group of 22 children has assembled in a large, airy room at Fort McAllister State Historic Park.
They sit in chairs arranged in a semi-circle, waiting. All wear sneakers. Many are in shorts and hats. Water bottles sit alongside backpacks on the floor. The sun-dappled space smells faintly of bug spray and sunscreen.
This is the fourth day of the park’s first Junior Ranger Camp session (for ages 8-12) that ran from June 25-Friday. The next session will be from July 11-15.
When head counselor Phil Lindsey calls them to attention and takes a seat at the front of the room, he announces a pop quiz in a booming voice, and tentative smiles appear.
The campers at the state historic park’s Junior Ranger camp have been through this drill. They are familiar with these oral “quizzes” and the way Lindsey makes everything fun, even though he may look and sound intimidating.
Lindsey asks questions based on the marsh adventure they had the previous day – questions about local wildlife, ecosystems and wilderness safety – and the children become brightly animated, raising their hands anxiously.
“I’ve been working with kids in summer programs for almost 35 years,” said Lindsey. “It keeps you young if you can hang with these kids … it keeps you active, involved.”
Thursday’s camp agenda included a hike, preceded by a make-your-own trail mix activity.
Fort McAllister’s Talley Kirkland, Christy Sherman and Richard Hawkins were also on hand.
Kirkland delighted the children with jokes and, on the trail, with his wealth of expertise about local plant and wildlife.
“It’s nice to help out with the kids. They seem to get a lot out of it,” said Hawkins, who has worked with the Junior Ranger Camp for three years.
Sherman said they’ve had a great week, and that she loves helping out with the camp. Her daughter, Reid, is a camper.
Junior Ranger Camp offers a variety of outdoor and educational activities on a daily basis. Last week, campers experienced canoeing, nature walks, history lessons and more.
Reagan Campbell, 10, said she likes camp a lot.
“I’ve been here a couple years,” she said. “I like to look at all the crabs. My favorite part is going in the marsh; you get all muddy.”
“Mostly, I like the day we were canoeing, and the thing I like most I guess is doing the arts and crafts, and the hikes,” said camper David Krupp, 9.
Fort McAllister Park Manager Danny Brown believes the Junior Ranger camp offers great opportunities for children.
“They’re exposed to history, to nature. It gets the kids away from the TV, cell phones, and gets them outside in God’s creation. It shows them leadership and how to get along with others.”
“We have a really dedicated staff that put the kids before themselves,” he added. “They’re providing safety, education and fun at the same time.”
Call the park at 727-2339 to learn more about Junior Ranger Camp or register your child.