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Science camps $260 price tag worth the price for 6th graders
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McParland School students gather around the GEM car being raffled off to support sixth grade science camp. - photo by GLENN KAHL
I didn’t realize how much it cost for one student to go to science camp until it came to my son several years ago.

Science camp, by the way, is the former name of the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Outdoor School. Yet I still can’t help but call it anything else since old habits are hard to break.

The price tag for one kid to attend the weeklong excursion located in the Santa Cruz Mountain area of La Honda is $260, according to Jill Fritchen of the San Joaquin County Office of Education board. Most schools will conduct a series of fundraisers to help defray costs.

I can remember forking nearly $200 out of my own pocket in order for Josh to attend the Outdoor Program (I had to kick myself for dropping the ball on the main fundraiser). But since my memories of Camp Jones Gulch were such positive ones I found it important for my boy to share many of these same experiences.

Since 1957, more than 360,000 elementary school students have attended the Outdoor School facility. More than 4,000 fifth- and sixth- grade students each year attend the program that’s fully certified by the California Outdoor School Administrators.

It’s there they can explore and learn about plants, animals and other living species in their natural habitats.

The banana slugs are the indigenous species of the area. It used to be that kissing one of these bright yellow, slimy, shell-less mollusk were considered a rite of passage.  Not so, said Fiona Maclane, who also goes by her naturalist name, Firefly.

“The salts (our body produces) can be harmful to the banana slug,” she said.

 Meanwhile, the San Joaquin Outdoor School is unique from others of its kind. In my years as a reporter, I’ve had the opportunity to do stories on other science camps.

I still prefer Camp Jones Gulch. I think it’s the proximity to the ocean that adds to the science camp experience. The tide pools, for example, allowed us to see marine life in its natural habitats.

The tide pools and the night hike often rank up there for many in terms of science camp highlights.

I know it was for me. I never forgot the lesson in astronomy peppered with Greek mythology during that night hike. In fact, I can still point out Cassiopeia or, say, Orion the Hunter in the constellation or identify some of the planets in the solar system while looking up at the night skies.

Right now, many fifth-grade students in Manteca Unified are working to sell tickets for a chance at an electric car purchased from Cabral Motors. Cost is $5 with 100 percent of the tickets sold going directly to that youngsters’ science camp fund.

The electric car, Fritchen said, fits right in with the Outdoor School’s belief of taking care of the environment and doing what you can to preserve Mother Earth.

Information on tickets for the electric car can be obtained by calling any of the MUSD elementary school sites or Fritchen at (209) 337-5166.

The drawing will take place during the City of Stockton’s Asparagus Festival in the coming months.