The summer camp program was small when I first started working at Jamestown Audubon only a few sessions, only a few children. I asked my then boss - raise your hand if you remember Jim Yaich - if we should just do away with the summer camp program. He answered that Audubon camp had been offered continuously since the 1970s, and he would hate to see it disappear. All-righty then. Let's do this.
As the parent of elementary school children, I thought about what experience I would want for my children. The education staff brainstormed ideas around scheduling and programming, and we put together a re-vamped day camp. We promoted it. And promoted it. And promoted it. And it was very successful. Over the next few years, it grew bigger and bigger.
We love Day Camp. We consider it to be one of our most effective programs, connecting children to nature, modeling environmental stewardship and learning, learning, learning. It hits every goal in our education master plan. And it's fun. This summer, we are offering 19 sessions over eight weeks. Some of the sessions are already full with waiting lists; others still have openings.
The sessions have various names and themes. While all of the camps involve being outside and exploring, some sessions will focus on a particular topic. The Water's Edge, for example, is a camp for children who will enter grades 5 through 7 next fall. It runs from July 23-26. These students will explore the edges of Audubon's ponds, but will also hop in the van to travel to other types of watery environs including a creek and a lake shore. Also for this age group is A Better Place, Aug. 6-9. These children will roll up their sleeves to actually do something to make the world a better place - pull non-native plants, replace them with new shrubs and trees, and more.
As a foodie, I'm excited about the offering for 8 and 9 year olds called How Does Your Garden Grow? These campers will find out first hand where their food comes from and sample just-picked goodies from our new demonstration gardens made possible through a mini-grant from the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
New this year is Counselor Camp running from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. June 25-28. Teenagers in this camp will learn the leadership skills required to be counselors in training or junior counselors who assist Audubon staff running the rest of the summer's sessions.
We will be partnering once again with the Community Music Project to offer Music Camp to children who will enter pre-K through second grade in the fall. From Aug. 6-9, children will listen to and move to music, learn to play some instruments and sing some songs in addition to their nature explorations.
There are full descriptions of all the offerings on our Day Camp website (jacamps.wordpress.com) where parents can also see the up-to-date enrollment figures for each camp and download registration and health forms. Families who need a little assistance in paying for camp should download the application for a campership. Funds are still available from Wild Birds Unlimited and National Audubon.
Jamestown Audubon is a 600-acre wetland preserve located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren, Pa. Five and half miles of trails lead visitors through field and forest habitats and along the banks of freshwater ponds. The Nature Center building houses hands-on exhibits for all ages, a collection of education animals and a nature store. Just outside the Nature Center building is Liberty's enclosure. Liberty is a non-releasable bald eagle cared for by Audubon volunteers. For more information, call the center at 569-2345 or visit jamestownaudubon.org.
Jennifer Schlick is program director at Jamestown Audubon.