Gold Arrow first introduced the Nature program in the summer of 2016, but this summer, we’ve taken the program to a new level, focusing on specific goals in order to help campers learn the most and make the most of their nature experience.
Some of the goals of the new nature program have been to get kids to appreciate more simple ways of life, to get kids to have fun with and be more aware of their surroundings, and to help kids develop a moral concern for the environment. In order to achieve these goals, Nature counselor Yogi designed activities for kids to participate in that center around observation, identification, and connection.
A few activities used to help kids in their observation skills have been the “Hundred Inch Hike,” where campers use rulers and magnifying glasses to slow down and look for new things in such a small space. Another activity used to help kids is the “Silent Hike,” where kids use their senses to observe nature around them.
Several activities have also been used to help campers in their identification skills. Campers go on nature hikes, where they use books to help them identify trees, flowers, bushes, and other plants they might find. Campers also participate in “Plant Tag” during which campers are only safe from being tagged when they’re touching a plant that they can identify.
The “connection” part of the program aims to help campers see the connection of each of the smaller aspects of nature to the greater ecosystem as well as their own personal connection to nature. Campers are asked about their favorite aspects of nature and their most memorable experiences in nature. Sometimes campers play “Web of Life” where a ball of yarn is passed around the group and each person represents something different in nature. By passing the yarn around, campers discover how different aspects of nature are actually all interconnected.
In addition to these activities, campers sometimes decorate tree cookies, figure out the ages of trees, and use special nature print paper to capture the intricacies of the plants they find. Many campers have sported their tree cookie necklaces throughout the session, and the nature program as a whole has helped campers both be more aware and more conscious of the nature around them.
In our expanded Nature program this summer, we’re learning to identify the five most common trees we have in camp – Jeffrey Pine, White Fir, Red Fir, Lodgepole Pine, and Sierra Juniper.
Camp Director Alison “Bean” Moeschberger worked with Welker’s Tree Nursery to get some saplings of those varieties and also some Giant Sequoias (state tree of CA).
The tree activity involves learning to identifying trees by looking at bark, pine needles, and cones,finding pine cones and seeds, and measuring the circumference of the Jeffrey Pines in order to estimate their age.
We have one tree in camp that is estimated to be 440 years old!
In addition to learning to identify trees, we’ve also partnered with the Center for Outdoor Ethics to pilot a Leave No Trace curriculum for camps. At our OREO (hiking), Nature, and Backpacking programs this summer, campers are learning the philosophy of Leave No Trace and learning how to implement it as good stewards of our environment!