We were a place where school groups came for three days to get out of the classroom, into nature, and learn in a different setting. It was hands on learning, experiential education.
The kids could see why they were being given certain knowledge and lessons. The learning that happened here was incredible. Testing lake water and searching for macroinvertebrates gave chemistry and biology a palpable purpose.
Eating wild edibles and learning how past peoples survived off the land gave meaning to history and natural history.
Kids from the inner city, who, on the first day were scared to sit in the grass and thought they were going to be eaten by deer, wanted to be on a trail in the woods and stay totally outdoors forever by the last day. And that was only three days!
I was inspired. And here I am seven years later continuing that same work.
The Outdoor Classroom
Today, too many youth and adults do not get outdoors enough. We’ve lost our sense of belonging in nature. From the comfort of our homes, our cars, our schools, and our work, the outdoors seems foreign and scary.
Why go play in the rain when staying indoors keeps us dry and warm and clean?
Why hike up a mountain when you can see what it looks like on a photo or google earth?
Because it teaches us about the world around us and ourselves.
Watching rain fill a creek basin and wash away plants and rocks, we learn about changing habitats, erosion, and the force of water and nature. We learn to assess risk. If that high water sweeps away rocks and logs, I’ll get swept away, too.
Climbing the mountain gives a glimpse of different climes and ecosystems. And the view from the top is so much better than a photo! It pushes our limits. When it’s steep, and rocky, and slick, we keep going. When we trip over a root and fall down, we get back up. That’s called persistence.
The Role of Summer Camp in Every Child’s Education
That’s what summer camp is all about. We’re outdoors all the time! We connect with the world around us. We feel the chill of the night and bundle up. We awaken to the sun’s rays creeping into our tents. We feel the radiating heat of the sun, like a turtle basking atop a log over the river. We watch that turtle and understand her simple pleasure.
When the sun goes down, we know the temperature is dropping. Caught once unprepared, we don’t make the mistake of too little clothing again.
Our life at camp mirrors the routine of humankind for millennia. If kids can fall in love with nature in three days in Texas, imagine what one week in West Virginia at Mini Camp can do for a little girl. Or three weeks during Term Camp for girls across the age range? Or even six weeks of Full Term camp for that unstoppable camp lover!?
By immersing ourselves in nature we learn not only to appreciate it, but to hold it in reverence. We know its power and the joy and peace found in its presence. We learn to protect it and strive to conserve it.
Sleepaway summer camp creates the opportunity to nurture these concepts in our young people as LIVED EXPERIENCE.
Camp truly fosters the greatest learning environment, particularly with its slower pace, no need for “grades”, and immersive elements.
Essayist, poet, and naturalist Henry David Thoreau said,
“It were as well to be educated in the shadow of a mountain as in more classical shades. Some will remember, no doubt, not only that they went to the college, but that they went to the mountain.”
— Casey Tucker, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls