GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Spring break means vacation for a lot of South Mississippi students, but for some children, the learning goes on. This week, they are working on various projects from building tiny houses to making their own soap.
There is no such thing as idle hands if you're part of the 4-H Spring Break Day Camp. Dozens of children are getting hands-on lessons to introduce them to new skills, different people, even unusual animals.
"They're amazing animals. They eat the road kill that's out in the road," explained a lady with the Wild at Heart Rescue organization, as she lured an opossum out of its cage.
You may have come across opossums before, but, how often do you get to touch a snake or come face-to-face with a baby alligator?
"I've always wanted to touch an alligator and snake and turtles," said 11-year-old Roberto Kerezsi. "They felt kind of squishy and scaly."
"Pretty awesome!" said 14-year-old Colby Clark.
About 50 children, ages 5-18, enjoyed the close encounter with wildlife Monday at the Dedeaux Road Community Center. The animal rehabilitation lesson was part of the Spring Break Day Camp, hosted by the Harrison County 4-H Clubs.
"Oh, the kids absolutely love that presentation. What they do now is they are empowered and have information if they see a sick or injured animal, what to do and what not to do for the animal," said 4-H Extension Agent Sheran Watkins.
The children also picked-up other handy skills. They helped build birdhouses, learned how to grow their own miniature garden, and used ordinary household items to perform science experiments.
"Whether it's science, whether it is community skills, whether it's technology, we want to make it fun," said Watkins. "In order for them to be a better citizen in their community, whether it's citizenship of picking up the trash outside, we try to teach our young people skills that will take and carry them through life."
The camp also introduced young people to life skills like money management and the rules of etiquette. For instance, the boys learned how to tie a necktie, while the girls learned about poise.
"To show respect and help one another," said Colby.
"I'm learning different techniques and skills like learning a little bit of carpentry, learning how to make soap," said 16-year-old Lashonda Harvey. "When you want to do a career or something, it'll help you in the long run."
The camp continues Tuesday. The children will get to build robots, help pick up litter, use GPS for a scavenger hunt, and they'll use PVC pipes to make marshmallow shooters.