A young kid stands on a wooden bridge while reaching into a pond with a net.
Press Center

New Audubon Center grows nature appreciation for summer campers

Press Center

New Audubon Center grows nature appreciation for summer campers

For Immediate Release Contact:  Alexis Williams, 228.238.1429 or alexis@crescentcc.com

Six children and one woman sit in two rows on a set of stairs.
Erin Miller (top right) also served as a counselor during the Pascagoula River Audubon Center’s first session of summer camp.

Over 60 campers have walked the down tree-covered lane this summer to the Pascagoula River Audubon Center’s summer camps exploring nature, birds and insects while learning more about the river that runs through their community.

For some children it’s their first adventure in nature and for others the river and the watershed are a second home. 

Staff at the newly constructed Pascagoula River Audubon Center, the Coast’s premiere nature center, are intent on making sure campers leave with a new appreciation for nature and the environment.   This year’s sessions included a week focusing on birds, another on insects and another on the science of the river.  These sessions were so popular that staff decided to add sessions for younger elementary-aged students and tailored the program to fit that age level. 

“It has been really fun to work with the children,” says the enthusiastic Education and Outreach Manager, Erin Parker, about her summer campers.  “They couldn’t believe the week went by so fast.  They learned a lot and had fun, and we were so glad to be able to offer a middle school camp for our returning campers who had ‘aged’ out of the elementary camps.”

Erin Miller, a 15-year-old East Central High School student, was introduced to the Pascagoula River Audubon Center (at its previous site) years ago by her grandfather George Hanson. 

“As soon as I was old enough for camp, he signed me up,” she said.  “I loved camp so much my cousins went with me.  We loved it by the river and being so interactive and close up to the things we were learning.”

This summer Miller spent time as a volunteer counselor for both of the elementary sessions and the middle school session.  She attended as a camper during the Junior Naturalist session.  “Working at the Audubon Center is a blessing,” she adds. “It helps you take the world into perspective in so many different ways.  The kids love it, and I love watching them learn.”

The Center’s camp sessions have included two elementary age camps with one week focusing on birds and the other week on insects.  Campers split into groups to bird watch, find insects and create a nature-themed art project.  Art projects included mosaic tiles with artist Bill Nelson and nature wind chimes with potter Pam Logan.  Campers also went on scavenger hunts and played games focused on the environment.  Conservation is an important aspect of both camps, as they learned about recycling and composting.  The highlight of the sessions is time spent on the Pascagoula River with Benny McCoy and McCoy’s River Tours. 

Middle school students learned more about the science behind the water system during their time at the Center.  They tested water quality and spent time kayaking the Pascagoula and also toured with McCoy.  The highlight of their camp experience was seeing manatees swimming in the Pascagoula River.  Their experience was documented by a video that went viral because of the rare sighting. 

“It’s pretty hard to beat seeing manatees in the River,” adds Parker.  “This was definitely the highlight of the summer.”

The camps continued with Junior Naturalist session.  These sessions were for high school students to earn a new appreciation of nature.  Junior Naturalists spent the week traveling to different eco-systems, including Horn Island, the Sandhill Crane Refuge, Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area and a freshwater lake.

Two teenager paddle in kayaks on the Pascagoula River where large trees grow out of the water.
Erin Miller, a 15-year-old East Central High student kayaks the Pascagoula River during the Audubon Center’s Junior Naturalist Camp. Photo: Erin Parker

“The geology and hydrology really shape ecosystems,” says Parker.  “After the week the kids really have an appreciation for just how diverse the ecosystems really are.  They are able to tell us what kinds of plants can grow there and see what kinds of animals make their habitats there.”

New to the Pascagoula River Audubon Center’s camp line-up this year is a mini-camp for kindergarten and first grade students.  This camp will be held in the mornings on July 19, 20 and 21. 

“We are giving them a structured way to start exploring nature,” comments Parker.  The camp will be $40 for Center members and $50 for non-members.  To register, contact Parker at 228.475.0825 or eparker@audubon.org.

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