This summer, connect with nature This photo provided by Courtesy of Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center shows kids hiking on a trail at the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, in Cedar Hill, Texas. (Sean Fitzgerald/Courtesy Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center via AP/Ladew Topiary Gardens via AP)
This summer, connect with nature
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In this age of screens and busy schedules, nature day camps are in demand.  Many offer a more diverse array of experiences than parents probably realize.
 
"Offering children direct contact with nature - getting their feet wet and hands muddy - should be at the top of the list of vital camp experiences," says Richard Louv. He is the author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" (Algonquin Books, 2008). His writings are cited by many nature camp directors as inspiring their work.
 
Nature-oriented day camps are held all over.  They are run in county parks, private preserves, botanical gardens and other green places across the country.
 
"There's a real movement toward helping more kids connect with nature," says Sarah Milligan-Toffler.  She is executive director of the Children in Nature Network. It is a Minneapolis-based non-profit group for which Louv is chairman emeritus.
 
Nature camps generally combine immersion in natural outdoor settings with art and science education.  That comes from Michael Goldman. He is education manager at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. Its location is in Maitlin, Florida. It is one of dozens of Audubon centers across the country. They offer nature camps to over 6,000 kids each summer. In addition to camps for younger kids, three Audubon centers offer residential camps for teens and adults.
 
"Just being in nature, smelling the earth, feeling the textures of natural things, is something kids don't get many chances to do anymore. And it's so important for development," he says.
 
"So many children can easily name a hundred brands for commercial goods. But they can't name a hundred plants in their backyard. In a sense then, they are aliens in their own homes. Even their teachers often don't know an oak from a maple tree. So where are they going to learn all that if they don't go to nature camp?"
 
Most camps are geared toward elementary and middle-school-age children. But some nature centers and botanic gardens offer day camps for kids as young as 4, says Patricia Hulse. She is the director of the Everett Children's Adventure Garden.  It is part of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
 
Despite the garden's expanded number of day camps, registration generally fills up within about a month of opening. Experiences include climbing trees and wading into ponds.
 
At the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Maryland, camps include outdoor exploration, science and engineering experiments, art projects, stories, physical activities and puppet shows.  This is according to Sheryl Pedrick.  She is education director at the gardens.
 
At the Audubon Center in Maitlin, Goldman says, "the kids take turns guiding us back to camp through the woods. We track animals, say a raccoon or a coyote. And when you see some coyote scat on the ground, the kids go wild. Then you mash it around a little and see berries. And maybe some fur. And the kids think about it and realize that means the animals are omnivores."
 
"I'm sometimes as blown away by the kids as they are by nature," he adds. He described a 10-year-old girl who once came to him with 10 snakes in each hand.
 
"She was a real biologist, full of passion and courage. She not only knew how to identify non-poisonous snakes, but she knew just where to find so many of them. And she learned those things by going to nature camp."
 
Some skills learned at nature camps can be life-saving, as well.
 
"Knowing how to make pine needle soup, how to identify plants and animals with accuracy, could in some situations be crucial to survival," Goldman says. "Plus, learning about them is so much fun."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What's the connection between nature, art and science?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (68)
  • zane-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:33 p.m.

    The connection between nater and art and science is that nater was decofered in 2008. Art and scieces is that scienis can be use is the natuer as well.

  • cooper-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:33 p.m.

    At the Ladew Topiary in Monkton, Maryland, there is art, science and nature all in one place.

  • kylie-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:34 p.m.

    I think the connection between nature,art and science is in nature you can learn something new just like you can learn something new in art or science.

  • christopher-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:34 p.m.

    The connection between nature, art and science is that art can be made by using nature or science.

  • hannah-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:36 p.m.

    I think the connection between art,science and nature is you can learn from all of them. For example, you can LEARN different art projects, you can LEARN science experiments and you can LEARN about nature. That is the connection I think there is between nature, art and science.

  • arianna-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:38 p.m.

    I think the connection between nature, art and science is how the students can tell if a tree is a maple tree or a pine tree and tell if a snake is poisonous or not because the students must learned a lot about poisonous snakes.

  • kayliana-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:39 p.m.

    I think the connection between nature, art and science is that all three of those things you can learn about them in a place called nature camp.You can go there so you can learn more on what they mean.

  • isaiah-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:40 p.m.

    The conectshon is that you can turn nature into art and science.

  • garrett-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:42 p.m.

    The connection between natur,art,and science. Natur is different because Natur you look for things like birds and things like that. Art is different from Natur and science because you draw pictures and paint things like that. Science is different from art and Nature because you do mix licwids together to make thing worke.

  • zaire-hym
    3/29/2016 - 01:43 p.m.

    The connection between nature,art and science is that you can search it up on google.

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