Thanks to the generosity of the Clara Blackford and W. Aubrey Smith Foundation, hundreds of B. McDaniel fifth graders spend a full week each year studying in one of Mother Nature’s most majestic classrooms: Oklahoma’s renowned Camp Goddard.
Complete with a museum featuring a giant dinosaur exhibit, a Native American room packed with hundreds of artifacts, an outdoor fossil dig, a prehistoric stream and four interactive teaching trails that meander through five miles of wilderness, Camp Goddard offers a classroom experience unlike any other. Included in the curriculum are indoor and outdoor interactive lessons on archeology, geology, early American culture, ecology, environmental studies, botany, biology, zoology and paleontology, to name just a few. Archery, fishing, grilling, and a wide variety of recreational sports round out the list of daily activities.
Equally important are the eye-opening and often life-changing lessons on conservation, preservation and the need to protect natural habitats. The 44-building camp includes residential cabins for students and chaperones, teaching and meeting spaces, a lake for canoeing, vast game and play areas, great hiking and exploration trails, fishing holes, mountain-top oases and forest preserves.
“I’ve been coordinating the Camp Goddard program for more than two decades, and I can assure you that the majority of our kids would not get to experience this unique learning environment without the generous scholarships from Smith,” said DISD’s Robert Mears. “There’s just so much potential here for learning and growth for all our kids. Our teachers, counselors and chaperones do such a great job of ensuring that everything runs smoothly…and Camp Goddard’s field instructors and guides are second to none.”
Kaye Hannan, 5th grade science teacher at B. McDaniel, says Camp Goddard’s positive impact on the academic and personal lives of students is immeasurable.
“Some of our students have never been out of Grayson County, never camped or fished…or interactively learned the many wonderful lessons Mother Nature can teach us,” said Hannan. “The kids explore trails in search of artifacts and fossils… then return to camp to study, perform research and discuss what they’ve found. They conduct experiments and participate in group studies in the museum and in special classrooms. They share information and knowledge they’ve gained…while also sharing life in unique social settings with their cabin-mates and chaperones. They also enjoy the great outdoors while fishing, hiking, playing sports and learning archery. For many, Camp Goddard stimulates long-term interest and excitement in career possibilities in the various science fields. It also gives our students a new appreciation for nature and how much we depend on our water cycle, photosynthesis, and life cycles to keep us alive and healthy. It’s hands-on, eyes-on, mind-on learning…and the kids are all-in! Camp Goddard is just a wonderful and eye-opening experience that these kiddos will never forget.”
Hannan said positive social interaction and teamwork are also high on the list of Camp Goddard benefits. “We had several “burnouts” when we all cooked hotdogs, burgers and smores over an open fire in the great outdoors, which provided wonderful bonding time between students and teachers. The camp has also added a new team-building ropes course which the kids participate in and really enjoy. But most of what we do is in an outdoor classroom setting where the kids just really soak up the knowledge. They love this kind of interactive learning.”
Denison ISD Superintendent Dr. Henry Scott says he truly believes that Camp Goddard impacts the educational and personal lives of students as much or more than any other interactive learning program that DISD offers. “Camp Goddard is a very unique and special place, one they’ll never forget. The kids learn so much here…about science and teamwork and life in general. So many kids come back and tell us, years later, that Camp Goddard had a tremendous impact on their lives and, in some cases, stimulated career choices. We’re just so very grateful to the Smith Foundation for ensuring that all our students have the opportunity to experience Camp Goddard.”
Exploration, discovery and data recording are among the many scientific skills that DISD fifth graders practice during their week-long interactive learning experience at Camp Goddard in Oklahoma’s Arbuckle Wilderness.
Archery is one of many DISD fifth graders’ favorite activities at Camp Goddard.
A group of fifth graders take a break beneath a cross, after hiking to the top of one of Camp Goddard’s highest hills.
“Kiss the fish” provides a perfect photo op after a Denison fifth grader lands his first big catch.
A Camp Goddard museum instructor play a Native American musical instrument for DISD fifth graders in the camp’s Native American Studies classroom.
DISD fifth grade students spend quality time in Camp Goddard classrooms, where they share knowledge, compare data, conduct experiments and discuss findings.
Denison ISD fifth graders gather beneath the giant dinosaur skeleton that dominates the paleontology area of Camp Goddard’s multi-faceted museum.
A group of fifth grade hikers stop with their guide to view and photograph one of many unique exhibits and artifacts they discovered along one of Camp Goddard’s many trails.