Students from Ardmore Middle School enjoyed taking aim at archery targets, learning about slithering snakes native to the area and spending time on the waterfront with canoes and water activities.
The best part? All of it was right in their own backyard.
Students from the school experienced the outdoor adventures of Lake Murray this week at Michelin’s Environmental Camp — a three-day camp for Ardmore Middle School sixth graders that Michelin has been sponsoring for more than 40 years. The camp focuses on outdoor education and respect for the environment.
The woodland camp is a different world for some students as they step off the school bus.  
“Everything we have to do out here has to do with the environment,” Debbie Murphy, Ardmore Middle School sponsor, said. “That gives them the opportunity to see that because a lot of these kids have not been out here, ever.
“They live right in the community and this is their first experience at Lake Murray.”
Students at the camp participate in fire safety classes (taught by the Ardmore Fire Department), wilderness survival, archery, GPS navigating and other outdoor activities. Students also learned about various area snakes from the Noble Research Institute’s Mike Porter and decorated recycled Michelin tires converted into customized chairs.
The camp is designed not only to expose the students to outdoor activities, but to educate them on the
importance of environmental responsibility.
“It’s like a school day for them,” Melissa Knight, Ardmore Middle School sponsor, said. “”It’s a day of school for them.
“It’s very hands-on.”
The educational camp is part of Michelin’s desire to be involved in the community. Michelin volunteers lead all the activities and cook the meals throughout the camp. Denny Moore and Candice Westbrook, who work at Michelin and as the event directors of the camp, put together the curriculum for the day camp. Other Michelin workers spend the day educating students and enjoying time together in the outdoor environment.
“I’m honored to work for a community that gives back like this,” Moore, who attended the camp as a student at Ardmore years ago, said. “And it gives us (the Michelin employees) a chance to spend time together as well.”
While learning inside the classroom is important, Murphy said for some students the escape of being in the outdoor environment not only provides a fun day, but boosts learning. Some students have a more comprehensive learning experience by “doing” and being a part of a learning activity, which Murphy said the camp cultivates perfectly.
“It’s really amazing because when they get out here it’s amazing the kiddos that really do well,” she said. “We get them out here and they are completely different kids.”
Students will be bused out to the camp for a final time this year today as the camp wraps up at Lake Murray. Murphy said many students ask if they can go back to the camp throughout middle school and seek ways to be involved in the camp. Many of the Michelin volunteers and teachers at the camp attended as students years ago, which Murphy said is a testament to the impact the camp has on a student’s learning experience.
“They just get into it,” she said. “They have so much fun and they just remember it forever.”