The Kidz Camp of Kitimat

This July, the BCWF held this year’s first Wild Kidz Camp in Kitimat. With the help of Katie Hikida (our new Youth Coordinator) and a number of amazing local volunteers, 25 lucky children amassed a wealth of new experiences during a free, week-long day camp at the Kitimat Rod and Gun Association (KRGA).

As with any good camp, the first day began with some team-building icebreakers. By blindfolding some children, they became bats that hunted the “moth” children using only eco-location, à la Marco Polo. Another great teambuilding game was “Blind Soccer”, where two blindfolded children had to play soccer against one another with only the directions of their teammates to guide them. Other great games included Animal Charades, “Ninja”, and the ever-popular “Dragon Dodgeball”.

Some educational sessions followed. At one station, children had the opportunity to see and touch some skulls and furs from a number of BC mammals like beaver, bear, moose, and otter. From this they were shown that you can learn a lot about an animal from its skull, such as its diet, age, life history, and even cause of death. At the “survival” station, the kids learned what items should be packed in a survival kit and how to use them. Using only rope and a tarp, they also constructed survival shelters. The “nature” station featured a number of outdoor activities like coastal plant identification and birding. By observing soil cores, the kids also learned how different deposition layers can tell the history of a forest.

Regional President Mile Lagengger Boards a Beaver Pelt
Regional President Mike Langegger Boards a Beaver Pelt

In the afternoon, BCWF Regional President Mike Langegger treated the children to a presentation on trapping methods, demonstrating how to safely set a variety of traps. Mike even demoed how to “board” a fresh beaver pelt, preparing it for drying. Many kids were eager to put on gloves and feel the mounted pelt.

Afterwards was the first round of what would become the most popular game of the camp: Capture the Flag. After several heart-pounding rounds, the day was rounded off with a Meet and Greet BBQ, where the parents could introduce themselves to each other and to the camp counselors: “Marsh Hawk”, “Water Strider”, and “Badger Stripe”.

The second day was divided into two portions.  Volunteers Jim Wiebe and Cliff Gardner of the KRGA assisted one group of kids in constructing their very own birdhouses, complete with individual roof shingles. Some kids shone during this activity, carefully choosing and meticulously placing each shingle according to size and colour. Others were more attracted to Archery, the other activity of the day. After a safety talk with Al Hummel (former KRGA president) the children were allowed to take up the bow themselves. For the next several hours the kids let arrows fly towards targets, as well as foam deer, bear, and turkeys. KRGA president Lewis Powel and his daughter Treena gladly assisted those that were in need of a few pointers. Treena also demonstrated the accuracy and power of a compound hunting bow, much to the children’s amazement.

Trinity Lining up a Shot
Trinity Lining up a Shot

The day was finished off with a good old-fashioned wet sponge fight. Lines were drawn, alliances were broken, and shirts were soaked as the wet war waged on. Who won? Does it really matter?

Day three began with a trip to the Kitimat River Hatchery, where they raise and release millions of fish a year. Aila Skitcko and Danica Meier led a tour of the facility and explained the steps involved in raising fish fry. Some children were lucky enough to spot some of the males in a separate tank with their enormous bodies slowly passing through the dark waters. The kids were excited to see the thousands of fish jump for food during a feeding demonstration.  Even more exciting was getting their fingers “kissed” by the salmon fry. Laughter erupted every time a tiny nibble was felt as the salmon taste-tested the children’s fingers.

Ethan Displays his "Fish Print"
Ethan Displays his “Fish Print”

Shaun (nicknamed Captain Barbosa) and Kendra Mouland headed an art station where kids could paint a fish and then press it against some paper to create a “Fish Print”. Some children were more conservative, opting for a more realistic look, while others decided that lipstick, racing stripes, techno-coloured scales, and mock scars would suit their fish better. The final section of the tour involved a thorough salmon dissection by Paul Mitchell, who explained features of salmon anatomy including the differences between gender and the function of an air bladder. Paul also removed several organs to show off before explaining their functions in fish biology. Surprisingly, children were so drawn to the dissection that they had to be told to back away from the open salmon. No squeamish children in this group!

Back at the clubhouse, Jim and Cliff’s support continued by running a session where children could make their own fishing jigs. By gluing and tying feathers and other attractive items to fishing hooks, well over 100 jigs that any fish would jump at were crafted. After being told they could make and take home as many as they could in the time given, some children speedily cranked out over 10 colourful creations!

Meanwhile, the other group embarked on a nature walk to Giant Spruce Park, led by Marsh Hawk. The park is home to a 500 year old Sitka Spruce tree, which was designated in 1983 to be the largest living Sitka Spruce in the province. With a circumference of over 36 feet, the first group could not reach around the colossal trunk. However the second managed it with “only” 11 children.

Of course, no day would be complete without the children running around in some fashion. After a few rounds of being chased by “zombie” versions of the counselors, the kids were ready to go home.

To the excitement of the kids, the fourth day began with a Nature Scavenger Hunt. Not only did it include easier items such as a round, pink rock, but also featured some challenging items such as specific plant fragments. Children had to rely on their nature lessons on the first day to find difficult items like a Red Osier Dogwood leaf or a Sitka Spruce pine cone. The counselors happily watched as the children intently combed the lawn to find a 4-leaved clover and gain that extra 5 points. (Not surprisingly, no one found one.) Inside, Dana and Darcie of the District of Kitimat Bear Aware Program presented on bear safety. Because of its location, Kitimat is frequented by more than one species of bear so children were taught how to avoid being put in a dangerous situation and how to react if they do encounter a bear. Those that could answer questions received some great prizes.

Due to indeterminate weather, the group visited the local pool for the remainder of the day. The kids were more than happy to treat Badger Stripe like a common pool toy, seeing how many of them could climb onto him at a time as he attempted to stay standing(the answer is a mere 9). With rope swings, wading pools, and high dives, the children could only be stopped when the pool closed. Another dripping wet end to a great day.

Warren helping Mallory Take Aim
Warren Helping Mallory Take Aim

The last day involved some  varied  activities. While one group was enrolled in the Art Institute of Marsh Hawk, another was at the Kitimat Shooting Club. Easily the most anticipated event of the week, the kids were fortunate to be able to spend half of the day firing .22s under the careful supervision of Al, Warren Dilg, Rick Moretti, and Lewis and Treena Powell. After shooting paper targets, they tried their hand at something much smaller: a golf ball. By the end of the day, several kids had managed to hit them.

Marsh Hawk led the other session of the day:  painting with water colours. After a quick lesson about the basic principles, the children went outside and painted the beautiful Kitimat Landscape.

To say our goodbyes, kids participated in the time-honoured Wild Kidz Camp tradition of signing each other’s shirts in permanent marker. As another chapter closes in the Wild Kidz Camp book, we take pride in knowing that the memories children gained from this week, like the signatures, will last for years to come.

We would like to thank the Kitimat Rod and Gun Club for lending us their space for the week, and the following volunteers that assisted throughout the camp; Lewis, Rita, and Treena Powell; Jim Wiebe, Cliff Gardner, Al Hummel, Mike Landgegger, Warren Dilg, Emily Maag; Tim Reynolds and the rest of the Kitimat River Hatchery team; and Rick, Sarah, and Braden Moretti.

This week could not have been possible without their overwhelming support and the financial assistance of the Barnet Rifle Club, BC Conservation Foundation, Province of BC,, DeluxeWall Tents, and the Block Family.

Click here to see some great photos from this event (including some shot by participant Aveanna)!

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