CASSADAGA - Sometimes people neglect the treasures in their own backyard. On Thursday, second-graders got to discover Camp Gross, a natural treasure.
Trish Pecuch, who is a friend of Camp Gross and a second-grade teacher at Cassadaga Valley Central School, said that part of the social studies curriculum for second grade is learning about the local community. A trip to Camp Gross fits with this theme and also provides plenty of opportunity to learn about local history, science and vocabulary.
Pecuch said two years ago, some second graders came to the camp for part of a day.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
The second-grade classes from Cassadaga Valley Central School spent the day at Camp Gross with their teachers. They walked along nature trails, learned about nature and camping, ate lunch, and had a scavenger hunt.
"They just loved it. They liked it better than a field trip to the zoo," she said.
The next year, the experience was expanded to a full day. This year all four classes of second grade students, 68 in all, and their teachers and aides came for a full day.
Pecuch credits Colleen Cobb with making the experience enjoyable. Colleen and her husband, Tim Cobb, serve as rangers and live in the home on camp property. Colleen spent the day with the group.
First the children learned the history of the camp and had a tour of some of the buildings. The students learned that the camp property was given to the Boy Scouts in 1929 by Robert Gross. In 1987, the Boy Scouts could no longer maintain the camp. The Camp Gross Foundation is now responsible for the camp.
The boys and girls were able to go through the lodge as well as touring some of the cabins. Pecuch showed the students a lean-to.
"This is where some campers learn their camping skills. Would you like to sleep in a lean-to?" asked Pecuch.
Some students thought they would while others gave an emphatic no.
Ronnette Riforgiat, another teacher, stood near a deer track in the mud. She pointed it out to each child who passed along the trail and prevented students from walking through it. In the area near the lake, two trees stood with bark seemingly peeled. Pecuch said it was most likely due to beavers.
Student Kynan Egan's sharp eyes discovered a small animal underneath a leaf. Pecuch explained it was an eft, a small red newt in the terrestrial stage of development. She held the animal gently in her hands and told the children not to touch. After everyone had looked Kynan took it near to where he had found it.
While hiking one boy told teacher, Christine Krenzer, "This is a good way to get exercise." Students walking with her saw a chipmunk scampering through the trees.
Vegetation was another word the students heard when Pecuch pointed out the ferns off the trail. One student correctly answered that vegetation was a word for plants. Pecuch explained that this type of vegetation could mean that it would be wet in the area. She also pointed out a tree fall asking them to note the root system.
"A tree fall lets more sunlight through so that the other trees and plants can grow. It also provides a home for little animals," she explained.
Next came lunch. After lunch there was more hiking and a scavenger hunt. On Friday, the students will be writing stories and drawing pictures about their day.
The Camp Gross Foundation's mission is to provide the youth of Chautauqua County with an excellent, safe, handicapped accessible up-to-date camping facility open year round. The facilities provide opportunity for study of nature and the environment, swimming, hiking, camping, games, sports and fun outdoors. Normally, youth groups provide their own program, leadership and insurance.
The Camp Gross foundation is a United Way Agency. Fees are kept as low as possible. For information about camping or use of the facility call the rangers at 595-2171.
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