Convergence Zone

Prominent figures from the science and golfing communities work in concert to promote the importance of protecting the environment during the annual Golf and Science Kids Day Camp at The Oaks Course.

by Michelle Floyd

One summer camp in Newton County will provide students with the means to get in a little exercise and fun while also learning a thing or two during their break from school. The Golf and Science Kids Day Camp is in its fourth year at The Oaks Golf Course in Covington.

“A golf course is our own ecosystem, and we want to impact children’s lives,” said Nancy Schulz, owner of The Oaks. “Golf is something that you can experience forever, and we want to grow their appreciation for birds, plants and the purpose for everything out there.”

Students from elementary to high school can sign up for a half-day, golf-only camp, from 9 a.m. to noon, or a full-day camp featuring golf and science, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants will spend time on the course with Brad Patton, head golf professional at The Oaks and lead instructor of the camp, and Jonathan Dean, assistant professional and fellow instructor.

“We cover all aspects of golf and get the kids on the course,” Patton said. “We focus on getting fun into the game, so it’s not as technical for them.”

“A golf course is our own ecosystem, and we want to impact children’s lives. Golf is something that you can experience forever, and we want to grow their appreciation for birds, plants and the purpose for everything out there.”

The Oaks Course Owner Nancy Schulz

Campers will spend the morning practicing their putting, chipping, driving and other golfing skills. The impact has already been felt locally.

“My teacher helped me on every part of my golf game, so it improved it a lot, and I still use all of the techniques they taught me,” said Sam Harper, a ninth-grade student at Eastside High School who participated in the camp as an 11- and 12-year-old. He now plays golf at Eastside and competes on the North Georgia Junior Golf Tour. In November, he placed second in the boys 11-13 age group at the 2019 NGJG Tour Championship. “I learned mostly the basics about what a true golf game is made of. I also learned a lot about etiquette, and I think that was the most important thing about it.”

After an included lunch, students will hear from presenters from around the county and experience the science involved with the course and its surroundings. “It’s not sitting with a pad and paper and taking notes—it’s hands-on,” Schulz said. “It starts with [giving] children [the knowledge they need] to gain appreciation for the environment and sustainability.” Campers will study plant and animal life associated with The Oaks’ ponds by conducting tests and fishing. 

“Using the pond, we talk about ecosystems—aquatic ecosystems, in particular—and then sample the populations of organisms,” said Emeritus Professor of Pedagogy in Biology at Oxford College of Emory University Theodosia Wade, one of the camp’s science presenters. “The kids enjoy being outside [and] looking more closely at the natural world.”

Wade revealed that the kids use dip nets to collect leaves and algae full of aquatic insect larvae, tadpoles and crayfish, and their favorite activity is sampling the fish populations with their fishing poles. 

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“I taught environmental science at Oxford College for the last 20 years of my career and noticed the students were not always comfortable outside,” she said. “My hope is that they begin to view the out of doors from a little different perspective and this experience will spark a lifelong connection to the world around them so that they might see the value in protecting natural areas for future generations to enjoy.”

On other days, students will take a swamp walk to see the wetlands around The Oaks and take soil and water samples. “The kids love it because they get to play around in the mud,” Schulz said, “and some of them have never been in the mud before.” Participants will also study turf care at the sustainable golf facility and the migration of the monarch butterfly, as presented by Connie Waller and her husband, David. Staff at The Oaks planted butterfly gardens around the facility to attract the endangered insects with certain plants. Waller spent nearly 30 years as director of Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful, while her husband retired as director of the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. 

The complete Golf and Science Summer Camp costs $200 per child, while the golf camp by itself costs $125 per child. Session I will be offered June 22-26, with Session II running July 6-10. Space is limited to approximately 40 students per session. During the 2020 camp, students will get to participate in making their own healthy lunches. They will also learn more about the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” campaign by utilizing their reusable water bottle, all while receiving some tips on how to protect their local environment. Laurie Riley, the current executive director for Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful, will talk to campers about recycling and present them with a Landfill Enviroscape—a plastic tabletop model of a landfill. They will also have the opportunity to craft a piece of recycled paper and their own Trash to Treasure Art, a project made with materials typically viewed as trash or recyclables. Riley sees it as an invaluable opportunity to reach the next generation: “The camps provide a unique venue for environmental education lessons.” 

Click here to read more stories by Michelle Floyd.

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