It’s awesome when kids find an activity that is both fun and educational. Take for instance Andrew Ponce. The 16-year-old enjoys his 4-H projects in horticulture and show animals. Raising lambs, and growing plants and hay are preparing him for a career in agriculture.

On June 14-18, he increased his knowledge about plants and animals at the South Texas Buckskin Brigades Camp at La Bandera Ranch near Carrizo Springs.

Texas Brigades is a wildlife-focused leadership development program for high school youths. Participants are introduced to habitat management, hone communication skills, and develop a land ethic.

Also attending the camp was Mikey de los Santos. Both boys are members of Linn-San Manuel 4-H Club, where Mikey works on beef and horse projects. Andrew is the son of Oscar and Sonya Ponce of Edinburg, and Mikey is the son of Patsy and Mike de los Santos of Linn-San Manuel.

While at the 4-day camp, the boys studied anatomy, biology, population dynamics, conservation, watershed management, photography, art, entomology, botany, fly-tying and firearm safety. Some of the hands-on activities included target practice, taxidermy, plant identification and rattling demonstrations.

“I really recommend it anyone who is interested in wildlife,” said Andrew, who is a junior at Edinburg North High school. “You meet a lot of new friends. Everybody there is really friendly. And believe it or not, the food is great,” Andrew said.

Leadership, a skill that is essential for any profession or occupation, is emphasized at the camp. Youths are given the opportunity to develop the ability to think, plan and communicate. Many of the activities at the camp revolve around teambuilding and critical thinking.

The Texas Brigades is a cooperative effort of Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks and Wildlife, USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service, Texas Chapters of Quail Unlimited, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The best testimony for any educational event is summed up by Andrew: “It was fun. I learned a lot.”

For more information about Buckskin Brigades, check out the camp’s Web site at www.texasbrigades.org or contact Doug Denny, 4-H agent in Hidalgo County, at 383-1026.