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Camp McDowell adjusts to offer family camps, virtual study

MADISON – For many years, Madison youth have visited Camp McDowell environmental center to learn about nature firsthand. With the advent of COVID-19, Camp McDowell’s staff is reaching out also to ‘deliver’ lessons about plants, animals and their ecosystem to North Alabama communities.

“As we move into the fall, we know that we must be creative with programming in order to continue to provide the magical McDowell curriculum to as many students as we possibly can during this crazy time,” Margaret Wade Johnston, Dean of Education, said. “We know that so many families are itching to get outside and have their children experience the natural world.”

“So, if most of you cannot come to us, we have developed a three-tiered plan to provide our services,” Johnston said about these options:

* Family Environmental Camps — Families can stay onsite and immerse themselves in a combination of the center’s programs and Farm School in a three-day program. Family camps open in September.

* Outreach programs – McDowell’s staff will visit schools and “support their curriculum with hands-on, inquiry-based learning experiences that have proven to capture students’ enthusiasm and bring excitement to the classroom,” Johnston said.

* Virtual classes – “We are planning ways to reach out to schools virtually … ask a farmer or naturalist a question in your own classroom,” Johnston said.

“At Camp McDowell, we believe that experiential education, through inquiry and self-discovery leaves long lasting impressions and a deeper understanding across all content areas,” Beth Dille said. Dille is Director of McDowell Environmental Center.

“During this Family Field Trip experience, you and your child will learn by seeing nature up close by wading into a stream to catch invertebrates, touching sandstone canyon walls and identifying trees,” Dille said.

With the Raptor Program, campers can meet birds of prey. For a taste of the farm, families can interact with goats, chickens and pigs, and then harvest and enjoy farm-fresh food. Nature hikes are open to explore some of the 1,400-plus acres of canyons, streams and sandstone formations.

For COVID-19 precautions, Camp McDowell staff members practice thorough hygiene and wear face masks. They keep up-to-date with CDC guidelines in all facilities.

Camp McDowell’s address is 105 Delong Road in Nauvoo, northwest of Birmingham. From Madison, drive south on I-65 to Cullman. Take U.S. 278 W. to Double Springs. Then, take Highway 195 S. for 10 miles.

For more information, call 205-387-1806, ext. 109 or visit campmcdowell.org.

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