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Campers Discover Nature

School may be out, but the learning doesn't have to stop.

So says Susan Lilly, the Town of Herndon Naturalist and the head of Herndon's Nature Discovery Camp.

"Think of Runnymede Park as a big outdoor classroom. It's hands on. Kids are learning, but don't know they're learning," said Lilly.

The purpose of the camp is "to promote stewardship of the land of the Town of Herndon. It's a ripple effect. It starts in Herndon, then it goes to Fairfax County, then the state of Virginia then the whole of the United States," she said.

The Nature Discovery Camp is designed for children ages six to 11 and will run for four weeks starting July 8. Each week is a four-day session from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

"We want the kids to take ownership of the land and the park. It's the kids park. These days kids are so glued to TV and video games. We play outdoor nature games and we go in the stream to cool of," said Lilly.

"I like nature," said Genevieve Dudzinsky, 9, of Herndon and a rising fifth grader at Clearview Elementary School. She will be attending the nature camp for the first time.

"I like snakes and turtles because I learned about them. Snakes shed their skin and eat mice. Turtles are the size of a quarter when they're born. I like getting dirty. I'm excited about camp. I'm going with my best friend," said Dudzinsky.

WORKING WITH Lilly as her assistants will be Oak Hill resident Megan Jenkins and Tysons resident Maricon Basilio. Jenkins is a rising junior studying geology at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and Basilio is a rising junior at George Mason University studying health science.

"We're all leading different programs," said Jenkins, who added that the campers will visit Skyline Caverns in Front Royal. "We will tour the caves, see the geologic structures and the animals living in the caves such as bats."

One of the programs Basilio will teach is about beginning birding. "We will have a guide book for the kids to be able to identify birds."

Lilly who is part Appalachian Cherokee will offer a Native American-archaeology program. "I'll be teaching the nature path — walk softly on the earth, experience nature to the fullest and leave no trace — we're just visitors," she said.

Part of the nature camp will include discussions and learning about fire making, flintknapping, hunting and gathering of food and how the various parts of an animal were used and not wasted, such as skin, bones and meat, said Lilly.

"Nature is pretty. It's easy to get attached to it," said Herndon resident Chris Maginniss, 7, a rising second grader attending Fox Mill Elementary School. "I'm looking forward to seeing the animals and helping understand them understand us and so we can understand them," he said, adding that he likes rabbits.