Camp connects youth to history

Published 12:08 am Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hannah Mask | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Ten-year-old Christin Smith and Keonna Mims read over a report together.

NATCHEZ — A group of students traveled hundreds of years back in time — at least in their minds — and wrote about their experiences Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church.

Two students even found a way to mix history with lobster costumes.

The students, who found their muses in the historic photography exhibit in the church, were part of a weeklong camp to become junior rangers in the Teacher Ranger Teacher program. Some were from places as far away as Dallas and Chicago.

Ranger Yolanda Winding helps Kamron Singleton,7, during the Junior Ranger Camp Wednesday.

Their ages ranged from 8 to 12, and they chose a picture from the exhibit and wrote a story to accompany it.

Teacher Ranger Teacher is geared toward low-income schools with diverse student populations, according to a National Park Service news release.

The program is built around a teacher who is chosen from a group of applicants to be a Teacher Ranger, and then that person is educated at a national park.

After he or she learns about the park, the teacher ranger shares what he or she has learned with other teachers and their students.

Touring the old jail with Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield, touring the Melrose House and learning about St. Catherine’s Creek Wildlife Refuge are just a few things on the students’ agenda this week.

The majority of the students say they’ll happily be involved with the camp again next year.

Alexis Chester, 9, said her grandmother got her involved with the camp, basically to get her out of the house for the summer. However, she said, she ended up loving it.

“I’ve learned a lot about history,” she said. “I’d definitely do it again.”

Jakayla Davis, 9, said her mother was looking up summer camps on the Internet when she came across Teacher Ranger Teacher.

“I’ve learned more about slavery,” Davis said. “(For example), it wasn’t just black people who were slaves, there were all types of people.”

Yolanda Winding, a teacher at McLaurin Elementary School, was chosen as a Teacher Ranger Teacher this year and last year. Last summer, she spent time learning the ins and outs of the Melrose and William Johnson houses, she said.

“I met people from all over the world,” she said. “There was a gentleman from Poland who didn’t even know what cotton was.”

People take a lot of knowledge for granted, she added.

After learning more about historic Natchez, Winding said, she created English and reading worksheets to give to other teachers in her school.

“Everything is geared toward the (students’) state test,” she said.

Many of those questions came from what she learned in her time at Melrose and William Johnson, she said.

But Winding said she’s learned more than just history.

“I’ve learned about myself and about teaching,” she said.