Summer camps for children return to SIU’s Touch of Nature

CARBONDALE — Summer camps for children are returning to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center in 2021 with an expanded lineup for younger kids.

The experiential learning center is offering a dozen summer camp opportunities for children ages 4 to 13, giving them a chance to explore the wide world of nature in a fun and safe way. After a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the camps return with enhanced safety and social distancing measures in compliance with state and SIU guidelines, including group size limitations.

Each of the camps has a specific theme and registration is underway online. All of the camps are at the scenic Touch of Nature Environmental Center, located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road.

Forest Day Camps

Children ages 4-7 can enjoy four sessions of Forest Day Camps, each designed to help the little ones discover nature and make new friends through play and exploration. They will enjoy games, take nature walks, create art projects, do special activities, sing camp songs, use their imaginations and senses, collaborate and solve problems creatively. The cost of each session is $245 and the sessions include:

Enchanted Forest, June 7-11 — Children will hear fairy tales of magical creatures including gnomes, trolls, dragons, fairies and unicorns as they explore the ordinary and extraordinary living things that find their homes at Touch of Nature.

Forest Explorers, June 14-18 — Little explorers will discover the critters, flora and fauna of the forest, stream and sand at Touch of Nature.

Forest Critters, June 21-25 — Kids will investigate the wild creatures that call Southern Illinois home and discover the answer to questions such as how squirrels leap from tree to tree without falling, how turtles stay underwater for so long, what the favorite food of a coyote is and other wildlife mysteries.

Forest Superheroes, June 28-July 2 — Campers will learn how to make the world a better place by planting trees, building a bat house, adding plants to a butterfly garden, and getting acquainted with Leave No Trace principles.

Eco Day Camps

Children ages 7-10 can explore the great outdoors, discover, play, make friends and learn during four sessions of Eco Day Camps filled with daily nature walks, art projects, time in the woods and creativity and curiosity.

All camps are $250 per session and the schedule includes:

Big Buzz, June 7-11 — Participants will find out how birds, bees, bats, butterflies, beetles and all types of flying creatures support an ecosystem, learn how to identify the different species of pollinators and plants and of the vital role pollinators play in the environment. Campers will also work on projects to benefit Touch of Nature pollinators.

Camp Campout, June 14-18 — Campers will enjoy daytime hiking and camping excursions, use a map and compass to explore, learn Leave No Trace principles and the basics of pitching a tent, packing a backpack, catching a fish and more. They will create classic camp snacks, play nature games, and discover which plants to watch out for when outdoors.

Wild Illinois, June 21-25 — Youngsters will discover what creatures roam about Touch of Nature and in their own backyards and why they pick the region as their abode. They will use their detective skills to hone in on animal tracks, scat and habitats.

Water camp, June 28-July 2 — Children will dive in and explore the wonderful world of water as they splash, explore, dip, fish and measure aquatic life in and around Little Grass Lake and Indian Creek. They will make small waterways, dams and boats and learn about local plants, animals and eco-life.

Adventure Day Camps

The Adventure Day Camps are for children ages 10-13. Campers will explore the land and waterways of Touch of Nature and region as they focus on learning more about planet Earth.

Each session of the camp runs $255 and the schedule offers:

Youth in the Wild, June 7-11 — Children will learn how to live in the woods using maps and a compass to explore creeks and off trails, scavenge for food, build shelters and more. They will also make homemade ice cream and learn tricks to not only survive, but also thrive in the great outdoors.

Aquatic Adventure, June 14-18 — It’s nonstop fun for campers as they explore the Little Grassy Lake watershed and learn how to protect our most important nature resource while uncovering its vast mysteries through water-based games, pontoon boat rides, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and other water exploration.

X-treme Adventure Camp, June 21-25 — This camp provides a taste of all of the outdoor adventure experiences Touch of Nature is so well known for. Participants will enjoy hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, the high ropes challenge course, kayaking, games, and so much more — even a thrilling zip line ride.

Southern Adventures, June 28-July 2 — Children will explore many of the region’s hidden gems as they hike the forest, climb sandstone bluffs, explore swamps and the beauty of Jackson Falls, Bell Smith Springs, Heron Pond, Cache River, Garden of the Gods and other scenic spots. They will learn the significance and techniques of Leave No Trace as well.

Registration limited

Signup for each camp is required no later than two weeks before the start of the camp session. However, registration is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis so early registration is recommended.

Sign up online at

Optional transportation between the Banterra Center and Touch of Nature is available. Options for lunches, T-shirts and water bottles are also available at registration.

For additional information, contact Erik Oberg at (618) 453-3945 or [email protected].

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