Discovery Channel Camp electrifies while it edifies

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- While children's programs are increasingly popular at resorts that cater to family travel, the Discovery Channel Camp at Atlantis has garnered more than its share of buzz, partly because of the cache attached to its name.

We found the camp more than lived up to its hype. Innovative activities took full advantage of the range of marine life.

Designed for kids ages 4 to 12, age-appropriate fun focuses on active learning and "edutainment."

Director Leria McKenzie said that "visiting educators are interested in the small-group cooperative learning we do, but we recognize that kids also are supposed to have fun."

The program and counselor training are approved by Discovery Channel consultants.

"Atlantis is responsible for taking the program further and for maintaining its own standards," McKenzie said.

Camp activities are on a four-day cycle, although a seven-day version is planned.

On Funky Fish day, kids visit a fish hospital, where they might be lucky enough to see shark and other marine life being born.

This is followed by a water science experiment aimed at teaching the principles of diving and a visit to Predator Lagoon, McKenzie said.

On Jaws and Claws day, the kids engage in sharktooth art, casting a tooth in plaster of paris while wearing protective goggles.

"We give them digital cameras and tell them to take pictures," McKenzie said. "When they come back, we teach them to download and print the pictures."

On Eco-Detectives Day, the children learn about the ecosystem on a field trip to the Dig, while 9- to 12-year-olds kayak and collect a water sample to examine under a microscope.

On a nature hike in the evening, they learn about Bahamian plant and animal life on the property, do some leaf rubbings and explore the night sky with telescopes.

Counselors teach paleontology during an orienteering field trip on Dungeons of the Deep day.

A compass, metal detector and coordinates are used to find hidden treasure and dinosaur traces, after which the kids do a dinosaur-related craft.

"Campers learn how the Mayans and ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics, and they try to put stories to the hieroglyphics on the walls of the Dig," the director said. "They finish by making their own story from hieroglyphics."

Organized pool games are held for an hour each day, in water that does not go above their shoulders, McKenzie said.

The indoor Base Camp, located in Coral Tower, is decked out with a replica of a Spanish galleon, while the Technology Lab offers computers with the latest educational software and Internet access.

My daughter was especially interested in the Nature Crafts area, where kids dabble in sharktooth art, examine specimens under a microscope and play nature-related card games.

Morning, afternoon and evening sessions are available for $30, $40 and $45, respectively, as are hourly visits starting at $12.50 an hour.

Reservations are required.

For younger children, in-room baby-sitting is available with advance reservations.

-- Felicity Long

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