HAWARDEN—Summer outdoor adventures at Oak Grove Park northeast of Hawarden encourage kids to nurture their knowledge about nature.

Sioux County Conservation assistant director and environmental education coordinator Sunday Ford is in charge of organizing annual summer camps for children.

“It’s so exciting and hands-on,” she said. “Every detail is exciting to them — from a bee on a dandelion to why the birds are singing.”

This year’s summer camps started in early June and will come to a close by the end of July. Overall, about 300 kids annually attend the events, which are free of charge.

The themes for each summer camp at Oak Grove Park this year are:

  • “Budding Naturalists”: Little naturalists ages 3-4 — along with their parents or other adults who attend with them — will have a hands-on introduction to nature. Activities include games, crafts and trail hikes. The remaining camps will be held 8:30-11 a.m. July 18 and 26.
  • “Animal Detectives”: Children ages 5-6 investigated animal clues in the wild, from tracks to scat. These camps, which were held June 11-12 and June 18-19, included hands-on activities, games and fun.
  • “How Nature Works”: For kids ages 7-9, the Oak Grove Lodge is transformed into a nature laboratory for a variety of hands-on experiments. They will spend time on trails, play games and explore. The remaining camps will be held 9 a.m.-2 p.m. July 10-11 and July 23-24.
  • “Wilderness Survival”: Children ages 10-12 will learn how to make a shelter, tie knots, make a campfire and use a GPS unit, along with other survival tips. The camps will be held 9 a.m.-3 p.m. July 16-17 and July 18-19.
  • “Overnight Camp”: Kids ages 13-15 will camp at Oak Grove Park’s cabins overnight and will experience outdoor fun with night hikes, archery, campfire entertainment and potluck meals. The camp will start at 9:30 a.m. on July 30 and end at 1:30 p.m. on July 31.

Ford and Sioux County Conservation naturalist Sarah Davelaar take turns running the summer camps, while naturalist intern Kendall Van Zanten has been helping out at each summer camp this year.

“Kendall is the common denominator,” Ford said. “We have some really good volunteers for the summer camps as well. We can’t forget about them.”

Ford and Davelaar also are being assisted this summer by AmeriCorps intern Hailey Pullman, who is helping them out with Sioux County Conservation’s community outreach programs and partnerships.

As for the summer camps, Ford has been in charge of organizing them for 21 years, so she has seen a couple of generations of the same families attend them.

“I love seeing the different generations come through,” she said. “I love that they see us as positive outdoors people. Having a positive mentor helps them link themselves to the outdoors.”