OC Bugs and Blooms opens kids’ eyes to nature

Camper Hazel Wyall, center, learns about local flora and fauna Wednesday, June 19, 2024, alongside camp helper Ryan Kelly, right, during Odessa College’s Bugs and Blooms camp. (Jennifer Guerrero|Odessa American)

Kids in Odessa College’s Bugs and Blooms camp are learning about local flora and fauna while having fun.

The camp instructor is Tina White, who is also teaching archery with her daughter, bullet journaling and scrapbooking.

There were nine campers in Bugs and Blooms, which ended June 20. Bugs and Blooms culminated with a field trip to the Sibley Nature Center in Midland.

“Every day we take a nature walk. The kids have their own nature journal and pencil and they carry those around on our nature walks. They record either by drawing or writing what they see and experience,” White said.

On June 18, they talked about spirals in nature like pumpkin seeds and they also found dandelions.

“Each day on our nature walk, we look for something in particular. Today, we were looking for leaves and they didn’t know why we were looking for leaves. We were just gathering leaves and whenever we came back they traced that onto paper and outlined it with permanent black marker and then used watercolors and painted the leaf and then painted the outside. It’s a stained glass effect. So they got to kind to preserve those leaves by painting them,” White said.

Tina White, instructor for the Bugs and Blooms camp at Odessa College, talks to campers about pollinators Wednesday, June 19, 2024, at the Odessa College Sports Center. The kids take daily nature walks and learn about their environment. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

They also toured the Atmos Energy Pantry Gardens at Odessa College, which provides fresh produce to students and their families.

“It was really neat. The kids ate some amaranth, which is like a lettuce. It’s a green leafy plant that is from Africa. The kids got to taste that and experience a plant from a different country. I taught them about ornamental plants and that is something that you do not eat. An ornament as a decoration. They’re just pretty to look at,” White said.

“We germinated radish seeds. We talked about germination, spacing, seed depth, dates of maturity, and in 21 days, they’ll have a radish. We’re germinating the seeds today. Wednesday (June 19) they will plant them and hopefully we have little plants and then in about 17 days they’ll be able to eat a radish, hopefully. That’s the the point of it,” she said.

Campers also painted clay pots and learned to plant a plant.

On their nature walk, a maintenance man pulled a sunflower and the kids got to examine it.

“Everyone was so excited to see the sunflowers and we talked about how they follow the sun and it’s a food source. It’s not just a flower; it’s a food source. You get sunflower seeds from them. When we went to the gardens, they had sunflowers over there and they had different varieties. They had a red sunflower, they had a purple sunflower, so the kids got to see that there’s different varieties. It’s still the same thing. But they look different,” White said.

They also talked about weeds and how they are not planted. They found a wild morning glory vine.

On their nature walk Wednesday, the kids looked for pine cones and sticks to make roses from. They came back and painted the sticks green and painted the pine cones another color and glued them together to look like a rose.

Adam Lucio, Sports Center Coordinator at the Sports Center, said the cool thing about this camp and the others is that they can familiarize themselves with other parts of the campus.

“They’re not just here at the Sports Center. They get to go on their nature walks, they get to go to the Spur Building and whether it’s for scavenger hunts or nature walks or to go check out the garden they get to familiarize themselves with that, which really entails, again trying to make ourselves inclusive to the whole community. When they come with their parents, they know, that’s where I went to go do my nature walk. They took us to the garden there … So hopefully, they just feel more comfortable with the campus,” Lucio said.

“If we can reach even one student, or one family it’s beyond just camp and the great stuff that they’re doing here this week … it’s giving them an idea for the future,” he added.

Hazel Wyall, Daniel Almeida and Harper DeLuna enjoyed the camp.

Wyall, 7, who goes to Hays STEAM Academy, said she liked learning about plants, “painting stuff” and going on the nature walks.

DeLuna, 9, goes to Compass Academy Charter School.

“I like learning about the plants,” DeLuna said.