Camp Bayou to host outdoor family event before school begins

Children can enjoy many hands-on, nature-related activities and collect free school supplies at Camp Bayou’s annual Back to School-Back to Nature event Aug. 6. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center, 4202 24th St. S.E., Ruskin. Admission is free. Photo courtesy of Dolly Cummings

Children can enjoy many hands-on, nature-related activities and collect free school supplies at Camp Bayou’s annual Back to School-Back to Nature event Aug. 6. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center, 4202 24th St. S.E., Ruskin. Admission is free. Photo courtesy of Dolly Cummings

PUBLISHED JULY 28, 2016

By LOIS KINDLE

The Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center will host its 9th annual Back to School – Back to Nature event on Aug. 6 to mark the end of summer break. Residents and their children are invited to spend some quality time together, have fun outdoors and enjoy Camp Bayou’s natural surroundings while collecting some free school supplies. Admission and parking are free.

From 9 a.m. to noon, families can visit more than a dozen activity stations, which include some kind of hands-on component where kids can play games, put something together and learn about “frogs, fossils, forests or other natural topics,” said Dolly Cummings, learning center director. Before leaving each station, each child will receive a free school supply for participating, like a box of crayons, pen or pencil, glue stick or bookmark.

Additionally, families who register as they arrive will get a free raffle ticket for each child.

“We’ll have drawings every half hour for larger school supplies, like backpacks, binders, grab bags and journals,” Cummings said. “Most of the items are valued at $5 to $10.”

Participating in this year’s event will be representatives from Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation & Conservation, the Little Manatee River State Park, Florida Aquarium, University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, the Girl Scouts, Camp Bayou’s Paleo Preserve Fossil Museum, the Florida Master Naturalist Program and the League of Environmental Educators in Florida.

Cummings will make a presentation at 10 a.m. for teachers in attendance to provide a sneak peak of numerous workshops Camp Bayou offers them throughout the school year, which begins Aug. 10. Teachers who sign up for Camp Bayou’s e-newsletter will get a goody bag of free classroom items.

Camp Bayou’s walking trails, butterfly habitat, fossil pit, Native American camp site will be open. All are free.

Weather permitting, a guided canoe trip on the Little Manatee River will be offered this year at noon. Canoe rentals are $25 for a three-seat canoe, and people who bring their own canoes or kayaks can join for $5 per person. To reserve a spot, call 813-641-8545.

Advance registration for Back to School – Back to Nature at campbayou.org  is requested to help organizers determine the amount of school supplies they’ll need.

“Children don’t get outdoors much anymore,” Cummings said. “They’re spending most of their time on the phone or watching television. This is a chance for them to experience nature hands-on, which they can’t do in front of a computer screen.”

Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center, a public-private partnership between Bayou Outdoor Learning and Discovery, aka BOLD, and Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation & Conservation, is part of a 160-acre nature preserve owned by the county. Located at 4202 24th St. S.E., Ruskin, the all-volunteer, nonprofit center is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday for trail walking, and activities such as picnicking or photographing birds and wildlife. Leashed dogs are permitted on site.

For more information or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit campbayou.org, email campbayou@gmail.com, or call 813-641-8545.

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