I spent most of my workdays this week in a Parks and Recreation department summer camp called “Into the Wild.” And if thirteen kids under the age of twelve high on summer vacation isn’t wild enough, imagine thirteen kids under the age of twelve high on summer vacation dissecting squids, taking nature trail walks, and conducting messy science experiments.

Yes, it was wild. But it was also fun. Let me describe an average camp day.

Camp begins at 9:00 AM, and children chase each other around the classroom until the teacher grabs their attention. She gives them detailed instructions, and then the first experiment is underway.

One experiment the children did throughout the week helped them learn about the chemical properties of everyday objects. They submerged eggs in vinegar and shared their observations with the class each morning. After the first day, the eggshells were partially dissolved. Soon, the outer shells were entirely gone. And eventually, the eggs were merely yokes.

Camp time also included some traditional forms of learning. For example, reading aloud a National Geographic article about owls. Naturally, this was followed by an activity that allowed kids to get their hands dirty: rummaging through an owl pellet to find the bones of animals the owl preyed upon. Each time a bone was found, the kids screamed with excitement. “It’s a skull! I see teeth! It still has hair on it!”  They used an owl prey identification sheet to help find out the species of the prey. They compared the bones found to the ones on the sheet that corresponded with common owl prey.

Then comes my favorite time of the mid morning, snack time. And I am happy to report that the Town of Zebulon does provide generally healthy snacks to the children at camps. For example, all of my camp kids were provided with bottled water each day. #gottastayhydrated

After snack is feverishly consumed, kids head outside. They gather plant specimens, identify cloud types, or go bird-watching. Then the camp day comes to a close, and parents begin to pick up the kids.

What did I learn from my time at camp?

I learned that every department has a job. This may sound obvious, but giving this concept deeper thought helped me realize how much more complex that statement really is. The job of the Parks and Recreation department is to create programs and opportunities for citizens to begin and maintain a healthier standard of life. How is this done? Parks, greenways, food programs, farmer’s markets, organized sports, and more. Promotional materials are necessary. Community buy-in is necessary. Outreach is necessary. And lastly, I would say that fun is necessary. Things have got to be fun. And if I had to describe the Parks and Recreation department for the Town of Zebulon in one word, that word would be fun.IMG_0108

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One Response to “Into the Wild”

  1. Jakob Boman

    It is interesting to read about how you teach children about nature. It is a relevant and important topic. Unfortunately, a large part of our educational system has made it boring by confining the children to classrooms only and by separating theory and practical experiences.

    I have worked with children both as a scout and as a volunteer for the youth red cross. We never had an educational perspective on our activities. However, the children did learn a lot form it but I think we could have done even better if we have had an educational perspective similar to your.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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