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East County Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 3 weeks ago

Lakewood Ranch children explore the wild side

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Lakewood Ranch Community Activities hosts first-ever Sticks and STEM camp to help children learn about nature.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Children can explore their wild side during the first-ever Sticks and STEM one-day camp Nov. 11, where they will traverse through Bob Gardner Park and participate in a science, technology, engineering and math activity.

After Lakewood Ranch Community Activities held a camp-out in February, the organization wanted to find another way for kids to get away from electronics and into nature, so in partnership with Lakewood Ranch, it created a Sticks and STEM camp.

Keith Pandeloglou, the executive director of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities, said they’re looking forward to seeing children interacting with one another in nature. 

“It’s something that I don’t think we see much of anymore,” he said. “People have activities they have to go to, but it’s not where it’s just like, ‘Let’s just go out and play in a field.’”

In the morning, after drop-off at Little Geniuses, camp participants will be bused to Bob Gardner Park connecting with nature as leaders from Around the Bend Nature and Discovery Tours takes them through different activities.

“We will have play and explore time and yes, even some down time when the kids can be kids outside,” said John Freeman, the owner of Around the Bend Nature and Discovery Tours. “Our goal is to educate, inspire and connect children with nature. What better way than to explore the natural world than right here in Lakewood Ranch?”

Kids will be using dip nets to search the pond at the park for invertebrates, which could be small insects, snails or worms.

“You can tell a lot about the pond and the water quality based on what you find,” said Annie Cederberg, a naturalist guide with Around the Bend Nature and Discovery Tours. “Kids love getting out there with the net looking around seeing what they can catch.”

Depending on time, kids might also play an osprey game where they act as ospreys and try to find food.

In the afternoon, kids will be bused back to Little Geniuses to use Lego robotics to model and mimic what happens in nature.

The camp is being held Nov. 11 because school is closed in honor of Veterans Day.

“We want to let them know there is more than just an iPad or computer,” Pandeloglou said. “We live in a beautiful place where they can learn a little bit more about how that comes to be.”

Cederberg said children benefit in many ways from being outside, such as learning through unstructured play and learning social skills.

“We’re not anti-tech, but personally, I’m pro-balance,” she said. “There are wonderful things about technology, but there are amazing things about being outside, too. … I want to inspire them to be outside. If we can get them outside, nature will inspire them.”

The camp also addresses a gap in Lakewood Ranch Community Activities programming, Pandeloglou said.

“We feel that while we do well with different sports, activity and event programming, we can probably do a little bit more educational-type programming.”

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