I spend my summer teaching Day Camp. This means that I am teaching kids about nature, in nature, most days of July and August. I wonder if they get anything out of it, if they learn anything, if they even enjoy themselves. It's hard to tell sometimes, but one week of camp this year was eye-opening and I still smile thinking about it.
A great way to catch what the kids think is to have them tell you - either in a sharing circle, a survey or a quiz. Wild Birds Unlimited gives us a grant every year to help assist families in sending their kids to camp. One thing they want to hear, though, is the kids experiences in their words. A few kids volunteered to write essays for the program, and so I thought I would share pieces of their experiences with you.
Venya Jenkins wrote: "My favorite day at Audubon Camp was when we went pond dipping. Pond dipping is when you get into the pond looking for stuff. We found snakes, bugs, turtles, and dragonflies. You can get in the pond and get wet and muddy. I like to get muddy and my mom says the muddery I am, the more fun I had."
Pond dipping seems to be a great hit with the campers. Liam Ndiffer says: "Last summer when we went pond wading there were lots to look out for and catch. Pond wading is when we try catch living things in the pond with nets. Among the things we catch are tadpoles, water bugs, and also finger nail clams. My favorite thing to catch is tadpoles because they are so funny to watch. After observing the things we catch we always let them go which is makes me feel proud! Our teacher tells us which things to avoid in the wild and what things are alright to touch. We learn tons of great facts and information about how animals live and survive in the wild."
Day Camp is often a time when kids discover that they are ok outside their comfort zone. Anthony Frangione writes: "I've never really been a kid who likes being around bugs, or to touch creepy crawly things too much. But my parents thought it would be a great time for me and I thought it would be too. I was surprised at how much I loved being there, and I have to say that I really enjoyed my week at camp."
A few specialty camps made an impact with the kids too. Kaitlyn Healy, a regular day camper, shares about Art Camp: "I loved it when I went to Art Camp last year. We were told we were going to paint a tree that represented us, not a regular real tree. First we went on nature walks. We saw that trees weren't just brown but are different colors, reds and purples! After we looked at a lot of different trees, we started to sketch the tree that we would paint. I sketched 2 trees before I got mine perfect. My tree was hot pink on a bright blue background, with bright stars and swirls coming off its branches instead of leaves. Next we wrote about our tree. This is what I wrote:
My Tree Story
I am a fantasy tree.
I like swirls, diamonds, hearts, and stars.
I am pink.
I like that.
I am fun, exciting and fresh.
I grow fun, giggles, laughter, and great memories.
My tree is about intelligence and individuality and fun. My tree is original in its own special way. It was so much fun to combine art with learning about nature."
u u u
I taught a Survival Camp this year to a group of mostly fifth graders. It was enlightening and one of the best experiences I've had teaching camp. The idea was to give them basic tools and information to survive getting lost in the woods. I was amazed at the shelters they built, their attentiveness and how much they remembered. This experience, for me, gave rise to the brainstorm of actually taking them out in the wilderness with minimal supplies and doing a three-day survival expedition. I would take that group of kids in a heartbeat.
I learn a lot every year from teaching camp. This year will be no different. Kids impress me every year with their energy, their minds and their passion. I hope that their camp experiences are just as exceptional as mine are, that they learn and play and enjoy and feel at home in nature.
When I'm smiling at the end of a camp week, it was a great camp. I am still grinning.
There are openings left in some of our camps. If you know a kid in third-seventh grade, give us a call and send them to camp. We'd love to learn from them, and hope to give them an opportunity to learn.
Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. Call 569-2345 or visit www.jamestownaudubon.org for more information on everything from events to camps to hours of operation. Trails are open dawn to dusk.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon and looks forward to camp, even when exhausted, because kids are the most incredible people in the world.