The Arkansas Audubon Society Halberg Ecology Camp is held each June at Camp Clearfork, a U.S. Forest Service camp between Hot Springs and Mt. Ida. Starting in 2001 the camp expanded to two sessions (from one in past years) with each session having sixty-two 11- and 12-year old youth, about equally boys and girls.
DIRECTIONS TO CAMP CLEARFORK – To reach the Halberg Ecology Camp at Camp Clearfork, take U.S. 270 west of Hot Springs to Crystal Springs. From Crystal Springs the camp is located about 2.6 miles further west on U.S. 270 at the entrance to the camp. If you have further questions phone 501-821-4097 or send e-mail to bhaas at sbcglobal.net.
The camp students arrive on Sunday afternoon and leave Friday morning. So what happens in between? The staff includes two co-directors and a teaching staff of 14 instructors (including several with Ph.D.s) who are college and high school natural science teachers. Also on staff are a full-time nurse plus an activities director to coordinate recreational activities. And the kitchen staff prepares nutritious food that also tastes good! We get a lot of positive comments from camp students about the food before they leave.
A typical day for campers would include early morning walks (to identify birds and other critters out early in the day), breakfast in the dining hall, both indoor and outdoor hands-on classes, recreation including a lake with canoes and swimming in late afternoon and then a common evening meal in the dining hall followed by a guest speaker. Guest speakers include naturalists like Lynne Slater of Russellville, a rehabilitator with HAWK (Helping Arkansas Wild “Kritters”), who does an evening presentation on rehabilitating birds, and Don Simons, interpreter at Mt. Magazine State Park.
Accommodations & Schedule
Camp Clearfork has cabins which accommodate 10-12 students (boys in some cabins, girls in others) plus two staff members who sleep in the cabins with the campers. Upon arrival on Sunday there is a welcoming session for students and their families hosted by our co-directors, Jim Gann, superintendent of Logoly State Park in McNeil (Southwest Arkansas), and Robin Buff, an Advanced Placement Environmental Science teacher at Fayetteville High School.
At the conclusion of camp Friday morning, there is another group session which gives the campers and staff one last time to interact before they say goodbye and head home. That final session can get a little teary-eyed.
The AAS Halberg Ecology Camp sessions in 2006 marked our 27th year. We were excited to be able to add a second session in 2001 by partnering with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. The setting, Camp Clearfork, gets rave reviews from camp staff and others for its biological diversity that allows the staff to show campers a variety of habitats and natural disciplines- aquatic biology, botany, entomology, geology, ornithology, mammalogy and herpetology. Many of the staff members return year after year and those positions are prized by educators.
Funding comes from student tuition ($275) or from scholarships, both full and partial, given by a number of Audubon chapters and other nature groups and individuals from across the state. So there is some assistance available for those families with financial needs. In effect every student gets at least a partial scholarship as it actually cost the Ecology Camp about $400 per student to hold last June’s camp session.
Requirements to attend include students needing to be either 11- or 12-years old at the start of camp and display an interest in the natural sciences. We do seek input from the teachers of prospective students to verify their interest in science and also their good behavior in an education setting.
Each June session fourteen ‘senior campers’ are invited back to the following year’s camp. With the expansion to two camp sessions twenty eight ‘senior campers’ were invited back from last year, fourteen each session. ‘Senior campers’ stay together as a group and work with the same two instructors all week long working on advanced ecology. This is a more intense learning experience that is reserved for those students who in the view of the camp staff would benefit most from such an experience.
If this sounds like something that would interest your son or daughter, you can download an application (see box to the right) or contact the camp’s Executive Director Elizabeth Fulton: efulton114 at sbcglobal.net or 2705 N. Fillmore St., Little Rock, AR 72207. Liz will send out an application form upon request and she also makes the final selections of students to attend the camp.
An application form and pamphlet can be downloaded at: www.arbirds.org/.