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Outdoor Fun is In Camps' Nature

courtesy of Riverbend Environmental Education Center

Ever since Richard Louv introduced the concept of “nature deficit disorder” in his bestselling book, Last Child in the Woods, parents, educators and camp directors have worked to reconnect kids with the natural world.

Says Don Baugh, director of the No Child Left Inside Coalition, an  environmental education group, “An environmentally literate child is more likely to achieve academically, be more motivated, and have a better chance at a job in the emerging green economy.”

Time to Unplug

“When children spend more time in front of the TV and computer than they do outdoors, it can have a detrimental effect. Parents are looking for ways to help their children ‘unplug,’ get active and balance their overly structured lives. Summer camps and year-round nature activities are a great way to do that,” says Keara R. Giannotti, director of Camp Creek Run, a nature-based day camp for ages 4-12 in Marlton, NJ. 

Jennifer Powell Acord of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council — which operates three camps —  says, “Summer camp is the perfect time to turn off the electronics and learn in a natural classroom. Kids develop curiosity, get exercise and have hands-on experiences that will benefit them when they are back in school.”

A New Adventure

“I really enjoy Girl Scouts camp because there is a new adventure in nature every day, like hiking,” says Lauren Davis, 13, who attended Camp Country Center in Hockessin, DE.

“You get to see plants that are not found around your home. You also get to learn new things in a fun way,” she says. “We did a water sample where you use tools to test the water. Sometimes you may catch organisms. I met nice counselors and spent time with new friends and no one wants to leave.”

“Children are surprised by just how much is out there to see and learn about,” says Stacy Carr-Poole, day camp and education director at Riverbend Environmental Education Center in Gladwyne, PA. “Instead of a playground, we have a stream that provides hours of fun. Our child- centered programs allow us to spend time exploring and enjoying nature. Our unofficial motto is: The dirtier I get the happier I am!”

“Studies have found that children need prolonged exposure to nature with an adult that takes an active part in their exploration,” Carr-Poole adds. 

“We hope children leave camp with a love for the outdoors and a desire to spend more time in it,” she says. “We want them to come back with their parents, share what they have learned and make the outdoors a part of their families’ lives.”

Ellen Warren writes for the American Camp Association (ACA) Keystone regional office serving Pennsylvania and Delaware. Learn more at www.acacamps.org/keystone and
www.campparents.org.

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