Sometimes we get so used to our surroundings that we don’t take the time to appreciate them or to recognize what makes them special. That is the principle that guided the development of the USC Salkehatchie Summer Scholars camp for middle school students 10 years ago and the Advanced Colleton Explorers Camp for high-school students this year. The camps focus on science and art, specifically the natural resources that abound in Colleton County and the ACE Basin. “We want young people to be a little more tuned into their environment, to pay attention to what’s in their own backyards,” says USC Salkehatchie Center for Leadership Development Director Warren Chavous. “The high-school camp is an excellent way to build on the foundation laid in the middle-school camp, and it gives those students a chance to continue in a summer program and broaden their knowledge about conservation issues.” The two camps are made possible by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, which this year provided $55,000 to continue its support for the middle-school camp and allow for the addition of the high-school initiative. The camps are housed on USC Salkehatchie’s East Campus and overseen by the Leadership Institute, which houses the Center for Leadership Development. “Adding the high school component was something we wanted to do for a number of years,” says Chavous. “We couldn’t possibly do this without the foundation’s support. We are so grateful for their support, for allowing us this opportunity to pilot this type of program for older youth.” The Leadership Institute partners with the Colleton Museum and various local educators to make the camp a success. Elaine Inabinett, coordinator of the Donnelley-funded ACE Basin Resource Room at the museum and USC Salkehatchie alumna, serves as the camp director. Local teacher Janet Strickland serves as curriculum coordinator for both camps, in addition to teaching at the middle-school camp. Other teachers from the area middle schools and high schools provided instruction in various science and art activities, and students had special presentations on youth leadership and Native- American history. USC Salkehatchie professor Dr. Eran Kilpatrick guided the students on a trek into the Great Swamp Sanctuary, where he demonstrated methods of collecting plant and animal samples for research purposes and discussed the impact that habitat changes can have on wildlife populations. “I was interested in helping with this because it involved getting young students interested in wildlife research,” says Kilpatrick. “It also made them aware of the types of wildlife research that can be conducted in their community.
I also thought the field trip was a great way to let local students know that there are people at USC Salkehatchie who are interested in getting young students interested in a career in science. There were some really sharp students that attended this trip, and I hope these students have another chance to experience scientific research and decide to pursue a career in science.” Students attending the high-school camp also examined the eating habits of owls, built owl boxes that will be placed in the Donnelley Wildlife Area, built a model of a Native American village that was donated to the Colleton Museum, studied turtle species indigenous to the state, and developed their own board games that dealt with all they learned during the week about nature in the ACE Basin. They also took field trips to places such as Edisto Beach and the education vessel Discovery, a boat that provides a marine study experience in the ACE Basin. Brai Hampleton attended the middle school camp in previous summers and said she was excited to have the opportunity to attend the high-school camp as well. She, like all of the campers, was recommended to the program by teachers who thought the camp would be a welcome experience. “I think it’s a good camp,” says Hampleton. “I really like it, and I liked the field trips a lot.” She talked about seeing two turtles stuck together the day before, tangled up in a plastic six-pack can holder. That type of experience is exactly why this camp was designed. “We’re just trying to give them a hands-on feel of what the ACE Basin is all about and why it is so important to protect and conserve,” says Inabinett. “The hope is that they’ll gain a greater appreciation for all that is right in their own backyard, things they might never have noticed.”