National Geographic takes kids on Dismal Swamp tour

Published 7:39 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2010

About 50 young people from a church summer camp recently had the opportunity to tour the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and learn about its ecosystem.

A National Geographic educational program was in Suffolk last week to take the children — from the African Methodist Episcopal Church Second District Summer Youth Academic Camp — through classroom and field instruction.

“They collected samples of vegetation, and collected a couple of bugs,” park ranger Stacey Sutton said. “They were able to look at those out in the field.”

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The children, who hailed from Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Washington, D.C., also were able to identify animal tracks and animal skulls found in the refuge.

“This is all just to educate the kids,” Sutton said. “These are more inner-city kids who might never have been in the wilderness before. They realize, hey, it’s not scary, it’s actually really cool.”

Using a web-based mapping tool called National Geographic FieldScope, the students investigated real-world issues, such as how human activities in the area affect the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Local biologists led the student tours and activities.

“The educators love it,” Sutton said. “The kids think they’ve learned a lot.”

The students’ visit was sponsored in part by Starr Motors, Another Level Travel and B&B Taxi Service, according to a city news release.

For more information on the swamp and its available resources, call 986-3705 or visit www.fws.gov/northeast/greatdismalswamp.