How do kids 8-12 spend a school holiday? For some, it’s a chance to attend Junior Ranger Camp at Mistletoe State Park in Appling. That’s just what 15 students from this area and from as far away as Pennsylvania did Monday.
Ranger Brenda Bettross, of Thomson, has headed the Junior Ranger program at Mistletoe for the past 15 years. Her program Monday allowed her to impart her love of nature and her knowledge of American Indians, their customs and the medicines they found in nature.
Activities included a lesson on animals native to Georgia and their footprints. Students were able to use footprint ink stamps to help them identify each animal’s prints. They took a nature walk through the park and finished the morning with a campfire cookout near the Beach House. As the students roasted hot dogs over the fire, Sheryl Silva, the head of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program at Mistletoe, showed them how to bake a sweet potato in an open fire by encasing it in Georgia red clay and then placing it in the coals. It usually takes 45-60 minutes to complete the task, she said.
The afternoon’s activities began with the decorating of an Indian peace pipe. Junior Rangers wound yarn of different colors around the pipe and then added feathers and beads to complete their project. Next, Bettross gave each student a small handbook on Georgia plants and trees that the Indians used for medicine. She covered everything from the totally edible dandelion to chewing pine needles for vitamin C. The Junior Rangers then went on a short hike to look at some of these plants and trees.
The day ended with an awards ceremony. Students participating in their first Junior Ranger Camp experience received the deer patch. The fox patch was given to the second-level rangers, and an owl patch was earned by those attending their third event. Each level has requirements that must be completed to earn the badge. One Junior Ranger received the Get Outdoors Georgia badge, which requires a Junior Ranger to go to other state parks or historic sites to complete the badge requirements.
The next Junior Ranger Camp will be April 3, during Masters Week. It is a canoe trip and will be limited to the first 20 registrants. There is a fee for the camps; Monday’s was $25, which included a lunch. For more information, visit GeorgiaStateParks.org/Mistletoe or call (706) 541-0321.