Camp Ondessonk Welcomes Sr. Thea Bowman School
In the past couple years, Ondessonk has been welcoming many new schools to Camp for Outdoor Education and religious retreats. First-time schools from the Evansville, Indiana and Belleville, Illinois Diocese, as well as several new schools from the St. Louis Archdiocese have begun traditions of overnight class trips to Camp. One school Ondessonk is particularly proud to have welcomed this past September is Sr. Thea Bowman School from East St. Louis.
The history between Sr. Thea Bowman School and Camp Ondessonk goes back even before we had these 983 acres in the Shawnee National Forest. Sr. Thea Bowman School is a consolidation of several East St. Louis parishes. One of which was St. Philip; whose one-time pastor, Monsignor John T. Fournie, helped found Camp St. Philip in 1957 and then in 1959, Camp Ondessonk.
Sr. Thea Bowman School principal, Daniel Nickerson, began his school’s relationship with Ondessonk when he brought his students to Camp in August 2017 to view the total solar eclipse. Earlier this year, Principal Nickerson began the process of planning an overnight trip to Ondessonk with his 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade classes for a mix of outdoor and environmental education.
As part of the school’s yearlong project “Operation Green School”, Mr. Nickerson wanted to get his students out of the city to grow in their awareness and appreciation of the natural world. Students were engaged in active exploration, using their senses to draw connections to their classroom curricula by studying ecology in the outdoors on Camp’s trails and lakes. They got a little wet and muddy, but one of Mr. Nickerson’s goals for his students was to get them out of their comfort zone and experience new things they aren’t able to at home or at school.
Ondessonk is very happy to include Sr. Thea Bowman School in our school year programs. We thank Mr. Nickerson for recognizing the importance of getting his students out of the classroom and into the woods. Hopefully this is the start of an annual tradition for students in East St. Louis.