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Camp Appalachia moves educational experience online

Opal Littleton, center, participated in Camp Appalachia during summer 2019 on the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Dahlonega Campus. Part of the hands-on experience included a visit to UNG's Ecological Protection lab. The 10-year-old girl will enjoy the activities again this summer because organizers will deliver the experience online.

To say Opal Littleton enjoyed participating in Camp Appalachia during summer 2019 on the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Dahlonega Campus would be an understatement.

"I really loved how they would let you do the activities and get hands-on experience, and talking about the history while I was doing it was cool," the 10-year-old Dahlonega native said.

Camp Appalachia is a weeklong daytime summer camp with instruction focused on Appalachian history and culture through hands-on activities and experiences. It is geared for rising third- through fifth-graders identified as gifted or talented by their respective schools. Professional educators with gifted certification as well as graduate students teach the courses.

The educators decided to transition Camp Appalachia to a virtual version this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Donna Governor, assistant professor of middle grades, secondary and science education.

"They felt it would be a unique opportunity to continue that experience with Camp Appalachia as well as a challenge to us," Governor said.

Opal, whose family moved to California, was pleased to hear about the online option. Despite being 2,500 miles away, she can participate once again through the interactive experience. Opal's mother, Heavenly Littleton, said online experiences like this one are beneficial.

"Through distance learning, my daughter and many other students are getting access to amazing instructors that they didn't have access to before," Heavenly Littleton said.

From June 8-12, students may access four lessons each day through eLearning@UNG, or D2L. Each lesson will be narrated, followed by step-by-step instructions for the project.

"We will explain the culture, history and background of the item and how to do each project," Governor said. "They can do them independently or with their parents' help. All of the activities allow the children to be creative and learn something about Appalachian history and culture."

Parents may pick up the materials and supplies for the activities the week of June 1 with times yet to be determined at the Vickery House on the Dahlonega Campus. The Vickery House is home to UNG's Appalachian Studies Center.

Governor said after students complete their projects, they can upload photos or videos of them online to be displayed in a virtual museum.

"My favorite part has always been the museum experience," she said. "I love to see the kids talk about what they did."

Opal Littleton can easily recall her projects from 2019, which included crafting a boat out of tinfoil and building a tiny pioneer wagon.

"With the tinfoil boat, we had to see how many grams it could hold. I got all of them," she said. "The pioneer wagon had to travel over a terrain. If you could get it over, you did a good job."

Now, Opal anticipates a new experience from the comfort of her home in California, since she will receive her materials by mail.

"I love this idea of an online camp," she said. "It's awesome and I'm glad they thought of it."

Littleton is looking forward to it as well.

"I can't speak highly enough about this program," Littleton said. "Online instructors and activities will give more people, like us, a chance to participate who would not normally be able to drive to Dahlonega. Because the camp has UNG's amazing staff and Appalachian history as its foundation, this really lends itself to a successful online experience."

Camp Appalachia runs from June 8-12. The program costs $65 and includes all materials. Enrollment is limited to 24 campers. The deadline to sign up is June 2 unless the camp fills all spots. To register, visit

For questions, email Governor at

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