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Wed, Jan. 22

Forest offers free camp to fourth-graders

The Prescott National Forest is taking applications from fourth-grade students at six Yavapai County schools for a free summer camp experience at the Mingus Springs Camp on Mingus Mountain.

The free four-day, three-night "More Kids in the Woods" camp takes place on July 21-24 and July 28-31, with a closing celebration on Aug. 1.

This year, it is available to students who have just finished the fourth grade at Miller Valley, Skyview, Beaver Creek, Lincoln, Washington and Granville schools.

To sign up, go to the forest's website at www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott. The forest does not have a specific deadline to sign up, but it's on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Prescott Forest is one of only 16 national forests to receive $78,000 in matching money for the Children's Conservation Corps and Junior Forest Ranger Program, commonly called "More Kids in the Woods."

This will allow the forest to expand the program from 90 to 275 youngsters.

"This is a great opportunity for all of us to get involved in the chief's emphasis on kids," said Laura Jo West, Bradshaw District Ranger. "It's up to us to help grow the next generation of land stewards."

The Forest Service received more than 270 grant proposals.

The Children's Conservation Corps and Junior Forest Ranger Program is for underserved youths age 9-12. It seeks to provide outdoor experiences that increase awareness, understanding and stewardship of the natural world. The program also will:

• Integrate classroom curriculum with outdoor experiences that support state standards in cross content areas.

• Provide field trips and a two-week summer camp experience that emphasize experiential teaching with students in the outdoors.

• Provide mentoring between high school students and elementary students, led by college professors and graduate students.

• Provide professional development opportunities for 10 elementary teachers.

• Allow youngsters to earn Junior Forest Ranger status and receive a one-year day use pass for their families on the Prescott National Forest.

The forest will use the money to buy curriculum materials, advertising, tools and gear for service projects, stipends for teacher training and salaries for camp staff. It will go toward student transportation on school busses to field trips, summer camp, nature centers, museums and state and national parks.

It also will provide per diem money for two weeks of residential summer camp.

As many as two graduate scholarships will be available to evaluate program effectiveness and alleviate concerns that Richard Louv raised in his book, "Last Child in the Woods."

The Forest Service has a long history of working with teachers, youth groups and others to educate children about the natural environment.

This year's money for "More Kids in the Woods" continues that tradition by helping children prepare to care for the land as they cope with climate change, demographic changes, and increasing demands for clean air, clean water and other benefits from nature.

The Prescott National Forest's long list of "More Kids in the Woods" partners includes Prescott College, University of Arizona Agriculture Extension Service (Master Watershed Stewards), Prescott Unified School District, Beaver Creek School District, Skyview Charter School, Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, Highlands Center for Natural History, Mingus Springs Camp and Outdoor Learning Center, Prescott Creeks, City of Prescott, Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Sharlot Hall Museum, Arizona Foundation for Resource Education, Bureau of Land Management (Agua Fria National Monument), National Park Service (Montezuma and Tuzigoot national monuments), Arizona State Parks (Red Rock, Dead Horse Ranch, Fort Verde, Jerome and Verde River Greenway), National Elk Foundation and National Wild Turkey Federation.

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