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
Lexile

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 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, says Michael Goldman. He is education manager at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitlin, Florida. It is one of dozens of Audubon centers across the country that together 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?"
 
While most camps are geared toward elementary and middle-school-age children, some nature centers and botanic gardens now offer day camps for kids as young as 4, says Patricia Hulse, director of the Everett Children's Adventure Garden, 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, 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 as life-changing.
 
"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 (34)
  • charliet-orv
    2/10/2016 - 11:37 a.m.

    Nature includes all these things. Nature can inspire artists and nature is full of things to discover.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    2/10/2016 - 10:45 p.m.

    The nature camp might have been able to bring children to be learning more about nature than artificial things because people wanted children to be learning more about outdoor things instead of learning more about indoor things. The children might have learned about the indoor things but they would have to be learning about outdoor things that are natural for them to be always doing. The people might have wanted the children to be learning all about the outdoor things because people might have wanted them to be learning more about the outdoor things that people do. People might have wanted to get more children to be learning more about nature and other outdoor things because people wanted them to learn more about the outdoors to get them to do outdoor things.
    Critical Thinking Question: What's the connection between nature, art and science?
    Answer: The connection of it is that they are all things that are from the outdoors because nature is the basic thing of the outdoors, art is the texture of nature and science is what makes up nature and their texture.

  • tkaik-wim
    2/12/2016 - 12:46 p.m.

    This is an extraordinary idea. Many children in the elementary & middle school age division do NOT connect with nature as often as they should. Giving them a chance to bond with the wonders of the outdoors can benefit these kids in many ways, and hopefully open their eyes to the world surrounding them.

  • kyliev5-pla
    2/16/2016 - 11:34 a.m.

    Nature day camps are for children to learn more about nature and to connect with nature. Kids will do multiple activities outside like climbing trees, wading in ponds, etc. It is very important for children to go outside and connect with nature as it is a vital part of development. I can relate to this because I love to go outside. I love to go up to my cabin because up there, there is no service, a TV that only plays DVDs, no water system, we have to pump it ourselves and use an outhouse to go to the bathroom, and a big lake right outside the back door. We are one of the only cabins I know of that is build this way. It is like a vacation, but without all the worries and stresses technology can bring (simile). We kayak on the lake, we swim in the lake, and we go on hikes through the woods or up and down the roads near by.

  • hunterl1-pel
    2/18/2016 - 01:54 p.m.

    I think this is a great thing for kids to do rather than playing video games.

  • kassadyw.-tay
    2/29/2016 - 12:13 p.m.

    Nature dcontains all of those things as a whole

  • peytond.-tay
    2/29/2016 - 12:28 p.m.

    I think this is a great idea we all need to get more connected with nature

  • emmal.-tay
    2/29/2016 - 12:29 p.m.

    Most art is based on nature. Also, in a way, nature can be a form of art. They way the leaves blow, the beautiful colors, and so much more are important to many artists. In science, half of waste we learn is based on nature. Nature is much more than just going outside.

  • madisons.-tay
    2/29/2016 - 12:32 p.m.

    The connection between nature , science, and art is that nature has both of them . you draw nature and learn more stuff about nature through science.

  • deaconp.-tay
    2/29/2016 - 12:43 p.m.

    I love nature. Technology wont save us when the world ends. Learning to survive in the outdoors is what we were made for.

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