Fifth and sixth grade school groups spend three or five days at the camp for memorable science lessons in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area’s vast diversity of natural resources.
Over the last 45 years, more than 200,000 young people have attended Goddard Youth Camp’s three-day or five-day residential education program. Developed to meet state environmental education standards, the curriculum takes advantage of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area’s vast diversity of natural resources, the result of its location in a transition zone where the Eastern deciduous forest and the Western prairies meet.
Currently, 32 schools from throughout Oklahoma and North Texas send 4,200 campers – typically 5th and 6th graders – to the Goddard Youth Camp each year.
On the camp’s five miles of natural trails and its natural history museum, these young people learn about geology, ecology, geography, paleontology, botany, and – thanks to the abundance of birds, fish and wildlife – zoology. The students also learn the story of the land and its people: how the prairie changed when bison were removed from the environment, how the fossils preserved in sedimentary rock provide a picture of ancient marine life, and how Native Peoples lived and worked on this land in the 19th century.
The young campers also learn respect for the land and its creatures. If they want to spot a whitetail deer or a turkey, they must walk quietly on the trail. To protect the fragile travertine marsh, they must cross it using the footbridge. If they take the time to study leaf design and bark texture, they can begin to understand the special role each tree plays in the life of the forest.
For many of the campers coming to Goddard Youth Camp from cities and large towns, the entire experience is eye opening, even life changing.
For the ﬁrst time, they are encountering birds and animals in their natural habitat, spending a whole day hiking, looking up at the most spectacular star-ﬁlled sky they have ever seen and down at the clearest lake water. At night, their cabin’s three glass walls give them a sense of sleeping in the forest. They come to appreciate, in a powerful way, the natural beauty that has been preserved because the Chickasaw National Recreation Area has been spared from pollution, deforestation and development.