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SEND A KID TO CAMP | AN OCCASIONAL SERIES

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Getting into the 'creepy' and the 'crawly'

The Schiele Museum in Gastonia helps campers discover life outdoors.

By Celeste Smith
cesmith@charlotteobserver.com

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There's an 18th-century backcountry farm set right in Gastonia, where schoolchildren last week petted kid goats named Peanut and Butter, met a pig and sheep, and checked out a vegetable garden tended to in the same way the pioneers would.

It's all on the grounds of The Schiele Museum, where science and environmental programs take place on 16 acres that include a nature trail, creek and outdoor classroom areas.

Children from Gaston County who have not been to summer camp here will be able to go courtesy of The Summer Camp Fund. It's an effort by The Charlotte Observer and the nonprofit Partners in Out-of-School Time. The goal is to send children from low-income families throughout the Charlotte region to camps where they can enjoy the outdoors and spend safe, supervised time.

Camp leaders at The Schiele Museum say they've learned a lot about running summer camps over the years.

Lesson one: There's no need to be incredibly structured. That gives children all the more time to explore rocks, salamanders and creek living.

Lesson two: Even kids who start the week resistant to the outdoors can come around in a big way.

Tony Pasour, head of education, recalls the 9-year-old camper who started off "Creepy, Crawly, Scaly, Slimy" week terrified at the idea of touching reptiles. By week's end, she was so enamored with the museum's Rough Green Snake that she took it out of the aquarium to show her mom - who flipped out.

"We see that a lot," Pasour said. "The thing about summer camp is, we're catching children at an age when they're not afraid."

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