Leading & Learning at Charlie Elliott Summer Camp

UGA senior Derek Colbert offers a glimpse of his summer camp experiences at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center.

July 2010: Sun, fun and a whole lot o’ kids, who could’ve asked for a better summer?

When deciding how I wanted to spend my summer, I knew I needed to gain some relevant work experience so I could decide what to do with a wildlife degree. I’m extremely interested in research and management, but I’ve always had a passion for outreach and wildlife education. This summer, I decided to explore my passion—best choice I’ve made yet. My name is Derek Colbert and I’m a senior wildlife major at the University of Georgia, president of the UGA Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and this is my summer.

Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center and its “Wild Summer Days” summer camp programs have provided an opportunity to work with children of all ages in a fun and interactive setting that allows me to share my knowledge about Georgia wildlife with a younger generation. All of the kids have been great, and while I’m employed to teach them, I’ve found they always have a few things to teach me.

When it comes to wildlife, I’m always more fascinated with the larger animals such as birds, mammals and reptiles. The children appreciate the smaller things, though; the things they can get their hands on. They’re always most fascinated with catching butterflies and dragonflies in nets, dip-netting in the pond for dragonfly nymphs and mosquito fish, and exploring the streams for crayfish. These creatures never occurred to me when thinking about wildlife, but to the children, they’re just as interesting as any turkey or snake. Granted, sometimes the little things bite back—the first day of camp, a couple of the children rolled through ant piles.

Is this what I want to do as a career? It’s too early to say, but I can say I’m thoroughly enjoying my summer and have learned an appreciation for the little things.

And to all the educators who do this day after day, thank you. I understand what a tall task it is now.

Sun, fun and a whole lot o’ kids, who could’ve asked for a better summer?