Campers attending the Christmas holiday camp at Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center don’t just learn about nature, said Lauren Herbert, who works at the center as an educator.

They also learned a surprising number of survival skills.

“We made lean-to structures this week,” Herbert said of the two-day camp Dec. 22-23. At the holiday camp before Thanksgiving, campers constructed a teepee.

It’s a fun way, camp directors said, to teach students about the natural world around them.

One of the first things campers learned was the difference between native and invasive trees and plants, and they systematically harvested those plants to build and fill in their shelters during the camp.

Heavy rain put a premature end to the lean-to construction, but the project continued inside with holiday-related crafts.

Campers mixed four parts baking soda and one part hair conditioner to make a paste that approximated the consistency of snow. They used plastic plates as the base of a miniature snowy landscape, and used the mixture to create scenes, including snowmen.

Bowls full of acorn tops served as hats for the snowmen, and dried seeds and berries made mouths, eyes and noses.

“We spend a lot of time on YouTube and Pinterest looking for craft ideas for these camps. We like to switch it up to keep things interesting,” Herbert said.

The mixture dried to a semi-stable state so campers could take them home.

This marked the last camp of 2014.

For more information on Bluebonnet Swamp programs, or other BREC programs, visit the website at