DECATUR -- Jenny Garver wasn't through story time yet at Tuesday's Summer Mini Camp Adventures Program at Rock Springs Nature Center, but 15-month-old Ella Carr decided it was time to explore.
Ella headed for the door.
"Ella," Kate Carr, Ella's mom, said firmly. "Come back here."
Ella listened, but was soon off again, forcing her mom to chase her down.
"This is how she is at home, too," said Kate, exasperated.
"That's OK," said Garver, Rock Springs' mini camp head counselor, smiling. "Even if they don't look like they're learning something, they're learning something."
The main goal of Summer Mini Camp is to introduce children younger than 5 to nature, but that's not the only benefit, according to Garver.
"They get to meet other kids and learn how to interact with other children," said Garver, who has been in charge of Summer Mini Camp since the program began in 2004. "They don't have to always be sitting down -- it's not school. A lot of times after they come to some camps and observe other kids, they start sitting longer."
In Tuesday's Summer Mini Camp Adventure Nature Play Camp, for children ages 1 to 5, the theme was "Digging in the Dirt." Garver began by reading a story about gardening, then kids were given real daisies that they were allowed to tear apart and also look at with a magnifying glass.
Then it was time to head outside and paint. All 10 children were given green paint to draw the stems and leaves and yellow for the flowers. Asher Marshall's picture looked like a flower as his mom, Allison Marshall, helped him, but then he used his fingers to make a more abstract piece. Allison quickly ushered him back in the building to wash his hands.
When the children were done painting, it was time to collect the paintings and take them in to dry. June Phillips, grandmother to Twyla Oliveira, laughed as she handed Twyla's painting to Garver.
"She put it on thick," Phillips said, laughing. "It might never dry."
It was Twyla's birthday. Phillips, who lives in Florida, came to visit for Twyla's birthday and went to the camp as something to do before her birthday celebration.
After snack time, it was time to explore the flower gardens outside the nature center. Kids were allowed to look at the flowers through magnifying glasses -- not pick them -- and were introduced to yellow cone flowers, butterfly weed, rattlesnake master and indigo, among others.
But Asher wanted to explore the yellow flowers he found in the lawn -- "They're everywhere," he said of the dandelions as he picked two of them.
"You're supposed to leave those in the ground -- you're not supposed to pick here," Allison told him.
"I picked them for you," Asher, 3, told her.
"OK, but we're not going to pick anymore," Allison told him.
Camp ended, as it always does, with the "Fishy Song."
Next week's camp is "Splash Pad," which will feature a field trip to Cattail Ponds to look for fish, turtles, and algae.