Little Ranchers gives students opportunities to learn about animals, plants and the environment while building friendships.
Kinley Kirker, a rising sixth grader, was busy collecting insects at Lakewood Ranch High School.
She taped each one to a piece of paper to study as part of the plant science curriculum during the Future Farmers of America's Little Ranchers summer camp May 31 to June 3.
When Kirker came across a spider, none of the campers wanted to tape it to their papers, so Kirker asked her camp counselor, ising junior Noah Rueping, for help.
He was busy at the time, so he told her to put it down and said he would take care of it in a moment. Kirker left the spider on his chair and told Rueping where he could find it when he was ready.
"Like 10 minutes later, he sat on his chair, and I think he forgot we put the spider on his chair," Kirker said. "He got it all over his butt. We all started laughing."
For campers and counselors, Little Ranchers was not only an opportunity to learn about animals, plants, insects and the environment but also a time to make friends.
"I was nervous to come here, but I liked it because I have my counselors and Kinley (as friends)," said Ryleigh Fangue, a rising third grader.
Counselors had fun getting to know the campers and introducing them to new experiences, such as holding a chicken, petting and feeding a cow, and fishing.
"It's just super fun and good to see the smiles on the kids' faces when you're going through the games," said Garrett Day, a rising senior at Lakewood Ranch High.
Day and Max Mangus, a recent Lakewood Ranch High graduate, loved seeing campers' reactions when they caught a fish.
"We did it in a primitive style so we used sticks, cane poles and live worms," Day said. "You saw their faces light up when they caught a fish."
On the last day of camp, the relationships the campers and counselors developed over the week were key as they depended on each other to complete a relay race for leadership day.
Each team had to have two people waddle a distance with a balloon between their legs. Then two people hopped in a feed sack to the next station where one person balanced an egg on a spoon while on the way to the third leg of the relay where everyone jumped on a pool noodle horse and galloped around three posts. The last leg of the relay required each team member to link arms and dash to the finish line.
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