The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Big Bear.

Ursa Major, the Big Dipper to you and me, is easy to see away from the big city lights of the San Gabriel Valley.

These seven bright stars popped right out for 11-year-olds Kelvyn Chu and Jonah Allen. Two of the stars in the handle even helped the sixth-graders find Polaris, the North Star.

It turns out that the mountains are a great place to study science. So that's exactly what 150 students from the Rowland Unified School District did in late November.

They said Camp High Trails Outdoor Science School really isn't all that campy, although there are the mandatory campfires and talent shows.

Still, the kids seemed to enjoy the

Rowland Unified students dance during a talent show at Camp Nawakwa. The sixth graders from Killian and Rorimer schools were attending Camp High Trails Outdoor Science School in Big Bear. (Photos courtesy of Rowland Unified)
outdoor life even though they had to forfeit all their electronic lifelines. No texting, no emails, no cellphones.

OMG they actually had to talk to each other in person. TTYL, LOL.

And mom and dad could only reach their little ones by writing them a letter. Oh, oh, time to practice their cursive writing for that lost art of letter writing.

But this was camping, time for roughing it in the great outdoors. Though the youngsters freely admitted that it wasn't all that rough.

"The cabins were really nice and warm. The food was also very good," Jonah said.

Located in the beautiful San Bernardino National Forest, Camp Nawakwa even had hot water and private showers.

The campsite offered an archery range, archeological dig, adventure course, orienteering course and climbing wall.

"I made it all the way to the top of the climbing wall," boasted Kelvyn.

Lest a parent worry about their loved one teetering off a mountain cliff, Killian Principal Susanna Halliday was quick to note that the students all wore safety harnesses.

"The climbing instructors kept a firm hold of the safety ropes at all times," Halliday pointed out.

Jonah said it was especially fun walking down the wall afterward. "That was cool," the sandy-haired student cooed.

The kids from Killian and Rorimer schools also enjoyed an adventure course and orienteering class. Now the kids can read topographical maps, good luck with the Thomas Guides when they get back.

"We didn't see any bears or deer. But we did study some snakes in class," Kelvyn contributed.

"I saw a coyote on one of our hikes," Jonah added, noting that stragglers were called "bear bait."

Rowland teachers tagged along to keep an eye on their wards. None of the kids tagged them as the aforementioned "bear bait."

"The camp is great, they do a lot of hands-on stuff in environmental and earth science," said teacher Lee Austin. "The kids see how science works through real experiences."

The amicable instructor admitted that he and fellow teacher John Plewnarz did take time to sneak away for some fishing. They ate the evidence.

All work and no play makes for a dull camp, so the students enjoyed the usual campfires and talent show. The happy campers also got to kick up their heels in some line dancing.

"My favorite part was the talent show," said Jonah.

"I liked the skit about the spitting contest," agreed Kelvyn.

Obviously Big Bear provided lots of stars inside and out. The sixth-graders were "dancing with the stars" inside.

richard.irwin@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801