By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County children got to see the tigers and the bears, but the lions were a no-show during a visit to Noah's Ark Rehabilitation Center in Locust Grove on Friday morning.
In the afternoon, they went swimming at the Steve Lundquist Aquatics Center.
At other points during the last five days, they got to try on antebellum clothing at Stately Oaks Plantation, and a beekeeper's suit at the home of its owner. They also went on a nature hike and saw turtles at the William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve, visited the Newman Wetlands Center, and took a trip to the Clayton County Water Authority.
That was life as a participant in Clayton County 4-H's week-long Clover College program. Fourteen children got to explore local sites before the camp ended Friday afternoon.
"We wanted them to know what's in the area," said Juliet Walls, coordinator of Clover College. "It keeps them busy and gives them opportunities to do things they never would have imagined."
The 4-H is a community service and leadership organization designed for children between the ages of 9 and 19. The four "H"s stand for "heart," "hands," "head," and "health." It is sponsored by county extension offices like the ones operated by the University of Georgia in several metro Atlanta counties.
Clover College provides the children with an opportunity to do more than explore the local community. Teen leaders teach short programs on subjects such as the food chart, the environment, and preparing for the working world. They also act as chaperones, of sorts, for the younger children, but they act as friends at the same time.
"We still talk to them a lot and be their friends, but if they are talking when they shouldn't, then we have to tell them to be quiet," said Tira Lauby, 14, a Clayton County 4-H member from Fayetteville.
The teen leaders are also responsible for organizing icebreakers, which allow the children to become acquainted with one another. "It's been a great experience, because I've made a lot of new friends," said Olivia Mullen, 10, of Rex.
For most of the children, however, it was the opportunity to go on one of the eight field trips that stood out most.
"I liked the trip to the beekeeper's house, because we got to put on the bee suit and learn how the bees make honey," said Bre'A Weeks, 10, of Rex.
"I liked going to Noah's Ark," said Matthew Ogu, 11, of Jonesboro. "We got to see ostriches, camels, monkeys, bears and tigers. My favorite was the tiger, because it was big and ... well, it was just my favorite."
Ogu's younger brother, Emmanuel, 10, liked the nature hike at the Reynolds Nature Preserve better than anything else. "We saw poison oak, and insects like dragon flies," Emmanuel Ogu said. "We were walking for a long time, but it was OK, because it gave me energy."
The Clayton County 4-H will offer two more opportunities for local children to get involved in activities this summer. There will be a trip to Camp Rock Eagle, the Atlanta area 4-H camp, June 23-27. The cost is $250. There will also be a summer adventures program offered July 14-19, where the youths will visit places such as Stone Mountain and Warm Springs. Call (770) 473-3945, for more information.