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Scott County teachers turn farm into nature camp for children

The Courier-Journal, Louisville Kentucky – July 27, 2007
By Dale Moss

Scott County teachers turn farm into nature camp for children

Little girls squealed, or shrieked, maybe both. They huddled, cowered a bit, before realizing they were safe.

It was just a tree frog.

The girls leaned in, held out fingers for a touch. They chased the skittish critter until it hopped well off the path. Hey wait, what's that? In a snap, the youngsters focused instead on a longlegs spider. Cool, someone said.

Nature Camp was one discovery after another. Brian and Melinda Lowry had hoped for such a curious, interested audience for the constant show on their 45-acre Meadow Glen Farm.

The Lowrys, who live near Scottsburg, offered recently ended weekly summertime visits to local children. About 20 came -- at least off and on -- all seemingly grateful to be off the couch.



"Freedom, finally," said Allison McClain, 9, of Scottsburg.

The Lowrys, both teachers, were intent that Allison and the others learn. The kids kept journals, made picture frames from twigs and colored in outlines of wildlife. But this was unlike school, all right, with baby bass in a pond to check out, and mussel shells and sassafras leaves to collect.

"What you might see at any given moment, you are not predisposed to know," Melinda Lowry said.

The next lesson could be under that rock or atop that tree. A butterfly might lay her eggs on the parsley over there. There's a monkey flower. What's a monkey flower?

"We actually got to see a lot of stuff," said Madeline Parker, 9, of Scottsburg. "Then they'd tell us what the stuff is."

Few were older than Madeline or more into the opportunity than Abby Colson, of Lexington, the youngest camper at 5. She proudly found a hawk's feather the morning I visited, and gave it to a friend. "The more they can be outdoors, the better," said Beth Colson, Abby's mother.

What a pleasure, Brian Lowry said, sharing their gardens and pond and woods -- property on which his wife grew up. This way, he said, they can help children overcome what has been called nature deficit disorder. We all should relish the outdoors, not fear it. If only kids are given a chance, goes the Lowrys' theory.

"It's a place we feel we need to be good stewards of," Brian Lowry said. "Not just with words but with interaction with kids. We hope, in time, to instill it in them to pursue it as well."

On a walk around the water, Brian Lowry unrolled a leaf to unveil a caterpillar. The bug inside felt safe and comfy, Lowry told the children.

He pointed out, too, the fiery red bloom of a cardinal flower and a baby green frog.

The farm is fairly covered with native plant life, Lowry went on, a lot of it put there himself. He challenged the children's senses as well as their minds, determined to keep it light and fun.

And not once did anyone ask for a break to play video games.

"Probably like what animals look like, what some trees look like," Lindsey Boswell, 9, of Scottsburg, said when asked what she'd most remember. "What poison ivy looks like. I'll probably remember that."

The Lowrys' 7-year-old daughter, Kelsie, joined in, and the family dog, Molly, made sure to be at the group's heels.

The day I visited, Indiana University Southeast science student Evin Carter of Scottsburg served as guest expert. Carter said he fell in love with nature because his peers typically wouldn't. He went outside to go against the grain, in other words.

"I know people my age (22) who don't know what a salamander is," he said.

Carter applauds the Lowrys' effort, like we all should.

The Lowrys spread the word informally of their camp and did not know what to expect. They charged but a nominal fee, all for materials.

They are tickled with the response and certainly encouraged to offer the camp again next summer, perhaps enhanced.

"I don't know how you'd top it, next year," Beth Colson told Brian Lowry as the last session wound down.

"I don't know if we can," Lowry said. "If it went this well, we'd be happy."

For more information, e-mail the Lowrys at MCLBSL@hotmail.com.

Dale Moss' column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach him at (812) 949-4026 or dmoss@courier-journal.com. Comment on this column, and read his blog and previous columns, at www.courier-journal.com/moss.

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