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Eco-Camps Offering Much More Than Just a Good Time

July 19, 2006 – They went to the beach, snorkeled, played badminton and simply had fun. But some of the 39 youths at this week's V.I. Environmental Resource Station eco-camp, obviously got the message.
"We learned to recycle, not to hurt animals, and we learned about plants and not wasting water," St. John resident Abari Meade, 9, said Wednesday as he waited in line for lunch.
His cousin, Georgia resident Marquis Pilgrim, 10, added that he also learned all about mangroves and not to use a lot of electricity.
Bailey Terry, 10, a Texas resident whose father, James, lives on St. Thomas, put learning about "things under water" on her list.
St. Thomas residents Leonard Gumbs, 10, and Jeremy Sprauve, 12, both spoke about the fun they had. "We stayed up late," Gumbs said.
Sprauve said it was fun hanging out with friends. "And tasting the good food," he said, ticking off dishes like pancakes, pasta and burritos.
The kids, ages seven to 14, arrived at the camp Monday. Wednesday was their last day.
The camp is operated by Clean Islands International, which runs VIERS for the University of the Virgin Islands.
"The overriding purpose is to stimulate interest in learning through the environment, " Clean Islands Director Randy Brown said.
Funding came from Friends of the V.I. National Park as well as Disney Cruise Line, First Bank, Lana Vento Charitable Trust, Prosser ICC Foundation and Rotary Club of St. John.
Brown said that the camp curriculum was based on "Island Peak to Coral Reef: A Field Guide to the Plant and Marine Communities of the Virgin Islands," a book written by UVI staff members Toni Thomas and Barry Devine.
He said the older youths, called junior rangers, put together a presentation based on information learned from "Island Peak to Coral Reef."
St. John resident and junior ranger Afrika Anthony, 14, spoke about seagrass. "It's like an undersea garden," she said.
St. Thomas resident Ivanne Farr, who represented the Caribbean Islands Alumni Chapter of the Gemological Institute of America, taught classes on gems. She said she explained the process of taking stones out of the ground and turning them into gems. She also said that the youths had the chance to do some design work.
"It's great to see them excited about this," she said.
The camp had help from a few parents, including St. John resident Ibro Oucina, who was busy keeping tabs on the lunch line.
He said he and his family were new to St. John – he's the manager at Garden By the Sea bed and breakfast in Cruz Bay.
"We thought it would be an excellent idea for John to make friends," he said, speaking about his seven-year-old son.
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