The Camp Tyler Foundation invites East Texans and their little sprouts to celebrate Mother Nature at the camp's fifth annual East Texas Earth Day event Sunday.
Although Earth Day officially is recognized April 22, Camp Tyler's early event at the 400-acre retreat near Lake Tyler is growing into a tradition for hundreds of East Texans.
The free event, held at the camp, 15143 Camp Tyler Road in Whitehouse, opens 10 a.m. Sunday and closes at 5 p.m. Jersey Mike's will sell $5 sack lunches that people can enjoy “picnic-style” under the oak trees at the park, Rayburn said.
The Tyler Museum of Art and the East Texas Camera Club present the second-annual nature photography contest, open to youths of all ages.
Zoe Lawhorn, with the Tyler Museum of Art, said photographers and experts will be on hand to give contestants technique tips and advice on improving their artistic skills.
Photographers can select their favorite photo, print it out at the event and take it home. Ms. Lawhorn said a museum exhibition for the winning photographs is in the works.
“By taking a photograph of something you see every day, you're elevating it to a work of art by memorializing that shot,” Ms. Lawhorn said. “By talking about that with children, you encourage them to start looking around and seeing nature in a different way. A blade of grass or a single flower is something beautiful and unique.”
Some cameras will be provided; however, if a child has access to a camera, he or she should bring it and the computer connection cords, Rayburn said.
Beyond pony rides and crafts, East Texas Earth Day is a time to emphasize environmental responsibility and sustainability.
There will be information and demonstrations about electric cars, solar panels and high-efficiency plumbing.
Above all, Rayburn said, he wants people “to be aware of nature.”
When he was a child, Rayburn's mother shoved him and his siblings out the door after breakfast to go play outside, he said.
“So many kids don't have that chance to develop those senses and become one with nature,” Rayburn said. “Heaven forbid a kid should get bit by an ant.”
Parents today are “so guarded,” he said.
“We've got to get these kids out and moving and looking at the bugs, the birds and the trees,” Rayburn said. “I think that's one reason Camp Tyler is so valuable — we're trying to offer it to more people.”
Last year, Alan Byoth, executive director of the camp, said the facility was in a period of transition, shifting toward a greater focus on conservation and sustainability education after spending more than 60 years as a retreat for area youths.
Whereas before, Camp Tyler identified itself primarily as a living-history establishment, providing youngsters with a glimpse at a bygone pioneer era in East Texas, camp administration now is increasing involvement with ecological and agricultural groups, including Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, an organization that spans more than 100 countries and 23,000 schools around the world. It encourages ecologically minded science research.
For more information on the Earth Day event, visit camptyler.org.