Gross Out Camp 2018

Children enjoy Gross Out Camp and learning about field biology. Photo by U. Glidewell

For the seniors, it’s the laughter of children on the lawn. For the children, it’s the wonders of experiencing what it might be like to have a granddad or grandmother.

Everyday during Fresh Air Family’s award-winning Gross Out Camp, the two groups came together to learn about fishing, tadpoles, salamanders, snakes, and crafts, along with wisdom, caring and the joys of childhood.

Fresh Air Family and Noland Health Services worked together to bridge the generations at a camp at The Village at Cook Springs Retirement Center, July 23-27.

“Kids and grandparents have always been natural allies. It is a wonderful thing to watch the interactions,” said Verna Gates, Founder and Executive Director of Fresh Air Family.

To make the camp accessible to the children who need it the most, AOD Federal Credit Union provided seven scholarships for underserved children. A typical Fresh Air Family camp consists of 20 children, with 30 to 40 percent of the campers on financial aid. AOD is making this ratio possible to create a diverse camp where everyone has an opportunity to learn.

Gross Out Camp (it’s science but please don’t tell the kids) features hands-on field biology. Student campers will join senior residents every day for activities such as nature crafts and ice cream making. Senior volunteers will help campers with daily activities such as fishing and journaling.

The campers enjoyed learning about snakes, creating crafts, and catching frogs and caterpillars on their walks through the woods.

“One of our goals is intergenerational activities and we believe both the kids and the seniors will enjoy learning together,” said Trent Jackson, Executive Director of the Village at Cook Springs. 

Students spent their days exploring the property searching for worms, bugs, crawdads and macroinvertebrates, guided by a biologist. Along the way, stinky plants and slime will be explored. It is Gross Out Camp, after all.

“Biology is disgusting, and kids love it,” said Gates.

Gross Out Camp educates the old-fashioned way -- allowing students to learn through hands-on self-directed discovery, arts and crafts, and live animal programs. The camp works with all learning styles for a complete educational experience.

The day camp is a program of Fresh Air Family, an outdoor education non-profit that serves 6,000 children a year in camps and school field trips.

The Village sits on the site of a historic hotel that served visitors who came to enjoy the healing springs. The idyllic site sits on rolling hills populated with goats and donkeys, harkening back to farming days.

“Our beautiful 200 plus acre campus is the perfect place for children to spend time running, playing, fishing, biking, and learning in the great outdoors,” said Jackson. “We have something going on every week. If you have never visited Village at Cook Springs, we invite you to schedule a tour. You’ll be glad you did!”

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