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Watch Out For Those Campers!

Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at 8:09 am

Camp Discover brings the fun to education for the seventh summer

Emily Partin

For the past seven summers, an average of 65 Camp Discover kids from across the plateau have been trekking around learning the history of the area while having a great time with friends and camp counselors. Offered to rising second through eighth graders, Camp Discover is broken into three groups based on grade level. The two younger groups progress through a three-year literacy and place based curriculum that includes reading, journaling, music, hiking, photography, science experiments, community service, outdoor adventure, and just plain fun. Each age group learns resiliency skills to prepare them for the next level of camp and the world beyond.

The theme “Me, My Community, My World” is the focus of the youngest group. In this group, Grundy County local history is brought to life by going on field trips across the plateau, learning Appalachian songs and stories, and visiting with older community members to hear what it was like to grow up on the mountain. Each day, the kids read a story book complementing that day’s theme and each camper gets his or her own copy of the book to take home. Photography is introduced in this age group and the kids are assigned their own camera to use throughout the two weeks. Telling stories through pictures and song are important components of Camp Discover and another way to share experiences. By the time a child progresses through this curriculum they have a solid foundation of the history of the area and where he or she is “on the map.”

The middle group includes rising fifth through seventh graders and is primarily reserved for kids who have been through the younger curriculum. Having the history of the area already established, the theme of this group involves conservation and community building. Again, the curriculum builds over three years and includes participation in the Tennessee State Park Junior Ranger program, an introduction to nature, conservation and water sheds, hikes throughout the South Cumberland State Park, and lots of team building exercises. The young teens read a “survivor” themed novel and journal their experiences. They too have access to cameras to chronical their adventures.

The oldest group, rising eighth graders, is composed only of those kids who have risen up the ranks of camp. It includes 2 weeks of adventure (kayaking, caving, rappelling, canoeing, and horseback riding), as well as a heavy dose of community service. This group is typically the envy of the others, giving the younger campers an incentive to persist in camp year to year. A novel focusing on resiliency and community building is featured in this age group.

Another very important aspect of Camp Discover is the Jr. Counselor program. As the campers age out of regular camp and enter into high school, they are given the opportunity to return as volunteer counselors.  This year, the camp includes seven Jr. Counselors, including rising freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, two of whom have been involved with camp as either a student or counselor the past six years, while the other five have five years under their belt. Camp Discover is proud of these kids for wanting to “give back” to the community in this way. The Jr Counselors are of great help in the classroom and perform day to day cleaning.

The 2018 camp staff includes Sherry Guyear and Jan Roberts, teaching the younger group; Bobbi Sue Fugate and Lauren Held, teaching the middle group; and Susan Johnson, teaching the eighth grade group. Sandy Dykes is the primary assistant. Donna Cunningham is the bus driver.  Sherry, Sandy, and Donna have been with Camp Discover from its inception, and Jan joined the second year.

Mary Priestly, of the Friends of the South Cumberland State Park, is an important advisor to the middle group and several of her books are featured throughout the curriculum. The camp has had the privilege of utilizing Americorp VISTA volunteers from the South Cumberland Plateau VISTA Project as counselors the past few years. Other volunteers are utilized as curriculum demands.

The two-week day camp is the school age component of Discover Together, a partnership between Scholastic, Sewanee: The University of the South, the Yale Child Study Center, and the community of Grundy County, designed to build family resiliency through programs focused around place, community, and literacy. Emily Partin of Tracy City is the local director of the program and a founding member of the partnership.  For more information about Discover Together visit