It may be the dead of winter, but, as its name suggests, the Living Prairie Museum is still very much full of life.
From building quinzees to hunting for animal tracks, to snowshoeing and making snow ice cream, warmly-bundled city youth spread themselves out across the museum’s 12-hectare tall grass prairie preserve to learn about animal habitats and winter survival on Jan. 2.
"We’re known mostly for our summer programming, but there’s still a lot to see and do here in the winter," said museum director Kyle Lucyk.
"In St. James there’s not a lot of these (outdoor camp opportunities). Fort Whyte is a trek. It fits a niche in the neighbourhood."
Outside, the 12 campers learned how to build, pack and hollow out a quinzee shelter, distinguish deer and mice tracks, bake bannock over an open fire, and even how to tell a deer’s diet by looking at its droppings, much to their mild disgust.
Inside, they built birdhouses, nesting balls and pine cone bird feeders — items they can take home to make their own backyards a little bit more animal friendly, Lucyk said.
"The kids recognize that there are animals that remain in Winnipeg for the winter (and) need a little bit of help," he said.
"It gives kids an understanding that there’s a vibrant ecosystem in the city."
The activities, along with the animal and eco-education, were a surprise for Richmond West resident Alex Papineau, 10, who was at the camp for the first time with his younger brother, Ben.
Although the two previously explored the museum’s forest, the day camp is helping build his interest in animals and prairie life, Papineau said.
"I’ve never taken an interest in this stuff before. There’s lots more to learn," he said, munching on some crackers while taking a break indoors.
"I thought it would be like every other camp. It’s very interesting. All of it is unexpected."
Even though her parents named her after the season, three-time camper Winter Biggsengel said she’s already looking forward to spring, her favourite season.
"All the plants are coming back to life, the animals are coming back out again," said Biggsengel, who attends nearby Athlone School.