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Camp at Old Frontier exposes children to Outdoor Adventure

Twenty-two children found learning and adventure at The Old Frontier last week, thanks to Project M-Pact.

The nonprofit project of the East Central Georgia Consortium arranged the outing for ages 9 to 15.

The Old Frontier owner Chris Smith welcomed small groups of children to the meditation area Friday, the final day of the program. Outside an Indian tent just within The Old Frontier woods, Smith explained how Indians adapted to the conditions.

"They didn't have cars and trucks and vans and they had to ride animals," Smith said. He said Indians would build their home on an elevated area near a water source. He explained that the Indians moved frequently, and gathered their food by fishing and hunting.

Smith said many arrow heads have been found in an area near Maxwell Elementary School, indicating heavy activity there in years gone by.

Chiron Williams, 12, and Keith Tavious, 11, listened as host Smith explained the Indian lifestyle. They both said they were having fun at the camp, but were glad they did not have to live like the native Americans.

The lesson Smith provided was only one of many shared during five days at the camp. Students also mined gems, learned or practiced archery, fished and rode horses.

Carrie Edwards, the director of Project M-Pact for the local One Stop office, said children spent their weekdays away from the influence of the electronic media. Children had no cell phones, no TV, no video games.

"It's OK that we have these things, but every now and then we should just step back," Edwards said.

Other than a brief indoor gathering in the morning to hear about plans for the day, students spent the entire day outdoors.

"I think it opened their eyes," Edwards said of the week's activity.

She said children were allowed to stay with their closest friends until the last day of the camp. "We let them be in their own little groups, but today we did the old-fashioned 1, 2, 3, 4," she said.

Students heard of the harmful effects of some media on youth, about gang-related topics, the harmful effects of tobacco and other drugs, and about making positive choices. Visitors represented state parole and pardon officials, law enforcement, the fire department and other agencies.

Titta Usry-Bland, a One Stop employee and M-Pact volunteer, said most of those involved in the project do no have other summer activities available to them.

For some, the week offered their first opportunity for such activities.

Chris Hayes, a resident at the Christian ranch and playground, said, "A lot of these kids have never fished or ridden a horse."

One unsuccessful angler threw the bait into the pond time after time without getting a bite.

"You'll catch a fish if you take that bobber off," Hayes said. "Catfish keep the lake clean. They're on the bottom."

Volunteer Gay Perry of Dearing said the young people get an opportunity to fish or ride. Some children return to the gem mining day after day. "They have a great time," she said.

Will Smith, 13, stayed busy unhooking catfish. He said all fish are released back into the pond. "There are some really big ones in here," he said.

Participants received a Project M-Pact T-shirt, a bag full of goodies, and M-Pact certificate and an Old Frontier certificate.

Funding came from a larger grant from the Community Foundation for the CSRA and Project Drug Awareness Training and Education.

Edwards was grateful for the money for the program for 22 children, but said she wished it could be available to all 970 middle-schoolers. "That would be absolutely wonderful," she said.

She said she stresses that the children are the future of the community. She said she tells them, "I need you to be solid, positive and honest adults."

In a news release, Edwards said, "None of this would have been made possible without the support of the collaborative partners and board of Project M-Pact, The Old Frontier staff and its volunteers, and the youth who showed up every day bright and early and ready to tackle another adventurous day."

Web posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011

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