BENTON - Ella Knois pried the worm off the end of her fishing line and fastened the hook to a rubber band wrapped around the base of the pole.
"It keeps it from flying around," she said. "So it doesn't stick you."
The Alvaton fifth-grader tossed the worm into the lake behind her and trotted off the dock. Farther down, Kassidy Watt, 12, of Bowling Green, slowly reeled in her line. When the empty hook popped out of the water, she smirked, declaring she was right: A fish took her bait.
More than 100 children from Warren and Allen counties rode the bus recently to Camp Currie, a summer camp for fourth- through sixth-graders hosted by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. For a week, campers were tucked away in the woods around Kentucky Lake and challenged to pick up rifles, paddles, rods and bows.
For five days, they set aside parents and technology to connect with nature.
On the lake shore, 28 boys in life jackets waited for directions. Three of them examined a bright green caterpillar they found on a shirt sleeve. They joked and shoved until a waterfront instructor told them to settle down.
At her prompting, they recalled the seven-point safety check they'd have to perform to earn their boating patch. Many campers like this activity best because they operate the boat themselves. Each boy sat in the back of the boat next to the motor and an adult. The adult wears a kill cord.
"I always tell them it's a 'don't kill me' cord," said Nancy Kiernan, a conservation educator for the fish and wildlife department.
Meanwhile, away from the water, a line of campers wearing orange vests and holding unloaded rifles prepared to cross a road on a simulated hunting trail. They stopped, opened the gun action and crossed the road because "there's always a chance you could drop it," Kiernan explained.
Camp is part of the conservation education program started in the 1940s, which puts educators in classrooms multiple times each year to teach fourth- through sixth-graders about natural science.