Most summer camps offer kids plenty of outdoor time and a chance to play.
Despite taking place in the middle of a conservation area, surrounded by nature, camp entailed hours of classroom time, a parade of lecturers and short lunch breaks.
Yet there was a waiting list of 12 and 13 year olds in Chatham-Kent wanting to take part.
It’s Cop Camp, an eye-opening experience for kids before they reach high school.
Fourteen kids from across the municipality took part in the fourth annual camp last week at the Children’s Safety Village, located inside C.M. Wilson Conservation Area.
Campers learned about many facets of policing, as well as basic first aid. Topics included traffic safety, drug enforcement, forensic identification, bicycle safety, and more.
The kids were quite immersed in their week of summertime police-led education. For example, while a drug squad officer was discussing the various types of drugs prevalent in Chatham-Kent, the class had the option to have the presentation wrap up early for lunch, or for the officer to go through additional photos of drugs and seizures. No one chose the early lunch.
Through it all, the kids said they soaked up the information.
“It was a good experience. I learned a lot of what it’s like to be with the police force,” Madison Vickery, 12, said.
Const. Renee Cowell, the public information officer, co-ordinated Cop Camp. She said this year’s camp was “fantastic” and the participants were quite focused. So too were the presenting officers.
“All the officers we bring in – all are knowledgeable and passionate about what we do,” she said. “The kids see policing is not what they see on TV or hear about at school.”
“I learned life-long lessons, and about what police officers do. Police do so many other things than just catch bad guys,” Megan Hakr, 13, said, adding seeing the behind-the-scenes work of the various departments was quite interesting.
Kamryn Hull, 12, said the first aid portion was enlightening.
“My gramma is allergic to bees and got stung one time. I didn’t know what to do,” she said, adding her grandmother was fine afterwards, but Hull now knows how to react.
Cowell would like the students to share what they learn at Cop Camp with everyone around them.
“I hope they tell their friends and family and share their experiences.”
There is also a reason to have their target age group for campers, Cowell said.
“By bringing in kids who are ages 12 and 13, we catch them before they enter high school so they have some knowledge before facing peer pressure,” she said. “The goal is to get them to start thinking about their future.”
Cowell hopes that future entails them making smart decisions.
“We want them to be outstanding citizens and be future leaders in our community,” she said. “This is all about keeping the community safe.”
The camp had an impact. Hull was angered to see a photograph of her school covered in graffiti.
“That was really sad,” she said. “If you drop out, chances are you’ll be sitting on the side of the road doing drugs.
“These police officers and firefighters help us so we are protected and people just turn around and do bad stuff.”
Vickery believes information she’s taken in from Cop Camp can help her down the road.
“With all the things we learned, this can really help us in life and with our decision making,” she said.
A Chatham-Kent drug enforcement officer, who educated the kids about how to recognize the different types of illegal drugs used in the area, as well as drug paraphernalia, found the Cop Camp kids to be a treat.
“They are very attentive and knowledgeable,” he said.
The officer believes educating kids about the perils of drug use and what to look for is very effective in lowering drug use.