Our two nature camp sessions have wrapped up for the season but a good time was had by all! Our summer intern, Eleni Katsos, helped with the camp and sent over a nice write-up from the two, week-long camps:
The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Natural History Day Camp of 2009 took place once again at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Leesburg, Va. Banshee Reeks is a beautiful place to learn about nature in a variety of ecosystems, and gives a glimpse into both terrestrial and aquatic wildlife.
The kids attended camp for a week, each day themed toward a different aspect of wildlife. A usual day at camp consisted of a morning talk about what we would be learning about that day, followed by a one to two hour hike, creative activities and games. Talking and learning about the subject before going out “into the field” helped to put what the campers saw out on the hikes into context, and really cemented an appreciation for what they saw.
For example, there was a day dedicated to trees, which entailed learning the names of the trees we encountered along our walk, using the senses such as smell and touch, as well as specific morphology to identify and remember them. The role of trees in the environment was also a focus for the day, their importance for soil quality and carbon control, as well creating habitat for a plethora of animals and insects.
We played a great game called Hug-a-Tree that encouraged fun with this aspect of the environment. During the game one partner leads the other blind folded around the forest, preferably in a disorienting path, to a tree. Once there, the blind folded player feels the tree for things that are memorable, such as the texture of the bark, the shape of its leaves, the number of branches, etc. They are then lead back to the starting point, unmasked, and must find their tree with the guidance of their partner telling them if they are getting warmer or colder. This game was as much fun to watch as it was to play.
Ellie Daley, one of our camp counselors and retired kindergarten teacher, planned excellent creative activities for the kids to do each day. She created nature journals for the kids to work on after lunch, creating a time and place to reflect through drawing, or writing. She also helped the campers decorate t-shirts with imprints of natural objects on tie dye-like backgrounds such as leaves and feathers using solar paint.
Aside from the scheduled activities for the day, campers were also encouraged to discover the nature that interested them. If they found an insect that couldn’t be identified for instance, they had time when back from the hike to look through the library of information and I.D. books. It creates a stronger connection to the experience when the answer has to be discovered rather than just given, and it also helps the kids get a feel for how to identify something that they find in the wild. To quote “Mr.Phil”, the camp’s founder and head counselor, “you can know a lot about wildlife and nature, learn about it for years, and still not know it all.”
The camp culminated with family day, where relatives were invited to eat homemade vanilla ice cream, and enjoy a pill bug race with campers. Pill bugs, also known as rollie pollies in the common vernacular, are insects that like to live in damp, covered places, like under a stump. Earlier in the week, we talked about where to find pill bugs for the race, and how to create a proper habitat for them. The race was conducted in a derby-style, and was a lot of fun all-around, hearing cheers for pill bugs with names such as, “Rags-to-Riches” or the sometimes slow “Speedy”.
The campers had a great time and learned a lot about the natural world around them. I know my memories from camp are some of my fondest and I hope the knowledge and experiences they gained from Natural History Day Camp will be remembered in the same manner.
Check out photos from nature camp on our Facebook page.