In one week we officially open our Summer Nature Camp as our first dive back into in-person programming after over four months of being closed. As we navigate the changes of this global pandemic, we have worked hard to prioritize camp while ensuring we can meet all the required health and safety protocols for in-person programming. 

Why Summer Camp?

From a mission-based standpoint, our Summer Nature Camp program is a critical part of inspiring an understanding of the natural world. Exploring nature with new friends. Discovering the names of wildflowers along the trails. Getting muddy plucking a frog out of the pond. Observing butterflies flitting across in the meadow and loudly shouting during a game of Coyote Coyote What Time is It. At camp children learn about the natural world and learn to care for it.

From a practical standpoint, 60% percent of our total revenue comes from our educational programs, a quarter of that comes from our Summer Nature Camp. Within the organization, it is a profitable program that supports our other mission-based initiatives with little to no direct revenue streams, including Habitat Management, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation and the Giving Garden. 

However, from a need-based perspective, camp is so much more. A recent University of California study estimates that, so far during the pandemic, over 4 million children have missed the chance to participate in environmental education programs. In addition to proven academic, social, and health benefits, camp provides the service of direct care that has an immediate and meaningful impact on children’s lives. Children need nature and at camp children take refuge in nature with our educators on a daily basis.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
Rachel Carson

Direct Care Means…

Accepting: Children need the opportunity to express themselves freely. Over the years we have learned a great deal from our campers and we continue to learn more and more. We let them lead and we follow. At camp, children are free to express themselves in personality, language, religion, and gender identity. We listen so that we can respect each child where they are, and follow their lead on how they want to be accepted. 

Including: Every child deserves the opportunity to benefit from time in nature. We work hard to make accommodations for all students as best we can. From children with life-threatening allergies and physical disabilities, to neurodivergence, we make every effort to educate ourselves so that we can best serve each child and help bridge the gap in understanding between children. 

Nurturing: From the child who is simply afraid to venture far from home, to families dealing with profoundly difficult situations including homelessness, death, life-threatening illnesses, and domestic violence, our staff and counselors support these families by providing a stable, consistent and supportive environment where children can take time to be children and have fun, even if just for a few hours. Nature itself works as our partner in nurturing the mental health of these children – with research studies consistently validating that time in nature provides healing and stress relief.

Equalizing: We work hard to make camp available to as many children as possible, regardless of their ability to pay, by seeking grants for scholarships and providing direct subsidies whenever possible. The socioeconomic situations of our families vary dramatically, yet fancy clothes and expensive equipment that differentiate people are discouraged, since everyone is going to go home wearing the same covering of mud and dirt!

Yes, Summer Nature Camp is a playful adventure filled with free time in nature. But children are not immune to the stresses of this time. There has been a profound impact on them as their worlds have turned upside down over the past few months. Parents out of work or unable to work due to lack of childcare, scary news, and fearing for the health of their loved ones, has made this a confusing and stressful time for children. To make matters worse, both parents and children have been removed from their normal routines, friends, and support systems, including dedicated and loving educators at school. Children need a place of refuge and taking refuge in nature heals the spirit. While we know Summer Nature Camp will look a little different this year as we implement social distancing protocols, it will always be so much more than just fun and games. 

Davnet Conway Schaffer
Executive Director

Summer Nature Camp Starts June 29!

Our camps for ages 3 to 15 all work in concert with our mission: To inspire an understanding of the natural world and ourselves as a part of it – past, present and future. We are passionate about providing your child with outdoor fun, adventure, games, new skills and relationships, confidence building, education, natural history and exposure to local natural habitats! 

Through the guidance of the State of CT Office of Early Childhood, the Centers for Disease Control, and the American Camping Association, we have developed a plan to get children back to nature this summer. Click to find out more and to register.