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Ron Blair (UT Extension - Henderson County)

“Who’s afraid of a snake? Mr. Denney is afraid of a snake. How come he is?”

Chuck Denney, Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)

That may be true, but Ron Blair teaches not everything that slithers in the woods is a copperhead. Most are like this rat snake, gentle and helpful - a lesson kids learn at 4-H OWLS camp, which stands for Outdoor Wildlife Leadership Service. It’s a ground zero look at nature.

Ron Blair
“We want young people to get back in touch with nature and being outdoors, and the importance of good friends.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

The kids are allowed to bring their phones to camp in case of emergencies. But messing around with technology and gadgets and social media is mostly discouraged for the week. We are a long way out in the country, and cell service and internet is kind of iffy here anyway. So with few technical distractions, kids learn to do things like start a fire with leaves and twigs. Veteran OWLS camper Wesley Moore enjoys helping the younger ones here.

Wesley Moore (McNairy County 4-Her)

“I just like hanging out with friends, old friends and making new ones.”

Caroline Howell (Stewart County 4-Her)
“We swim. We build campfires. We learn how to build campfires. We learn safety for outside. A whole bunch of useful stuff.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

Useful and entertaining. Land between the lakes in Stewart County is home base for OWLS camp, and water activities are a favorite for kids – and there’s also the chance to wet a line.

Jasmine Jones (Henry County 4-Her)

“I like the fact of getting to know other people and being outdoors and going swimming and fishing and canoeing. Things like that.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

There’s a bit of work on each day’s agenda. Here’s the “S” in OWLS, the service. Kids attach plastic tubing to concrete blocks and then sink them in the lake to create artificial cover for fish.

Staci Foy (UT Extension - Henry County)
“I hope that they get a sense of respect for the outdoors, a sense of adventure, a sense that there is more to do in their world than sit in front of a computer.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator
As OWLS camp wraps up, leaders say these kids are now conservationists. For several fun-filled days, they learn to explore, appreciate and protect our outdoor world.

OF NOTE: OWLS camp isn’t totally tech-free. Kids learn to use GPS navigational systems on wildlife hikes. They also do a number of nighttime nature activities.