SUMMER DAYS

Heathwood campers immerse themselves in the great outdoors

ccope@thestate.comJune 18, 2013 

— First days at summer camp can be challenging. Just ask Morgan Schmidt.

The 7-year-old struggled to get the hang of paddling at a whitewater kayaking camp.

“I was running into a lot of stuff,” Morgan said.

But on the second day, she paddled alongside 11 other children in bright orange, yellow, red and blue canoes on the pond at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School.

The campers played games on water more often seen on playgrounds. Instead of running, they paddled to tag each other, dodge balls and follow along with what “Simon says.”

Playing tag teaches them skills such as how to paddle the boat quickly and effectively, said Kristy Gutierrez, a camp instructor.

“They don’t know the learning is happening,” she said.

The camp is part of Heathwood’s Pursuit of Environmental Adventure and Knowledge (PEAK) program, which aims to get kids out and involved with nature.

Stan Wood, the program’s director, said teaching children outdoors can be more challenging; a classroom, he noted is self-contained, so it’s easier to get students’ attention.

But kids in outdoors settings can learn skills such as teamwork, communication and perseverance, he said.

The whitewater kayaking camp provides students with opportunities they would not otherwise get, he said.

“Hopefully it sparks a passion,” Wood said.

Another camp instructor, Brice Spires, was a student at Heathwood from first through 12th grades. He helped with the PEAK program through college.

“I feel like I get paid to have fun,” Spires said.

The difficulty in whitewater kayaking camp activities progresses through the week for the third through sixth grade participants. There will be a trip on the Congaree River on Wednesday, and the Saluda River on Thursday and Friday.

Morgan Schmidt had never paddled around in a boat prior to the camp, her mother, Michelle Mohn, said – except once at Disney World.

But by Tuesday, she was taking to it – being one of the last two students to leave the water.

Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.

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