Camp gives kids taste of rural life

Michelle O'Driscoll of Springbank Farm in Lebanon shows a hay bale slide set up for the up coming Farm Works Camp. (David Patton/Democrat-Herald)

LEBANON — East Linn County isn’t exactly the big city. But even here, some kids don’t get much of a chance at rural life.

Brian and Michelle O’Driscoll hope to bring the educational experiences of farming to Lebanon-area youngsters with their first two sessions of Farm Works Camp.

The O’Driscolls are inviting up to 24 children ages 5 to 10 each session to Springbank Farm on Berlin Road. Sessions are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, June 17-21 and again June 24-28. Registration closes this Saturday, June 15.

Information, costs and registration forms are available on the farm’s website, www.springbankfarm.org, or by calling Michelle at 503-816-5529. Scholarships are available.

Much of Springbank Farm is devoted to blueberries, but the O’Driscolls have set aside a portion of their 320 acres that will be used for the day camp.

Here, campers can feed, groom and play with a variety of chickens, rabbits, sheep and baby American Guinea Hogs, along with visiting goats and a horse on loan from one of the farm’s seven camp counselors.

They will gather eggs, milk the goats, make cheese, learn to felt and see how wool becomes cloth. They’ll explore the barn, the creek and the 45-foot-long hay slide, and plant a sunflower house in a framework of straw bales.

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They might not realize it, but campers also will be strengthening their academic skills, particularly in science, art, math, technology and engineering, Michelle said.

They’ll learn about the energy of the sun while making sun tea, and the intricacies of photosynthesis through concocting mint candy. They’ll explore watercraft designs by building tiny stick rafts and carving boats from zucchini. They’ll learn about ecology through worm composting.

All the counselors have backgrounds in either education or the natural sciences.

Plenty of the activities are simply designed around “getting kids to ask questions,” she said. “They are the authors of their own experience.”

And then of course there will be lots of traditional camping activities, including sing-alongs and nature hikes and crafts.

“This farm is a really wonderful gift, and we want to share it with the community,” Michelle said. “We want to leverage rural upbringing as an asset: ‘I know a thing or two about problem-solving, because I worked on a farm.’”

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