This summer, 96 nature-curious kids came to Stanley Park to enjoy the outdoors and have fun in nature. Our unique outdoor camps, led by a team of educators and volunteers, covered everything from Art in Nature, to Survival, Stewardship, and Feathered Friends.
As we spent the majority of our time outdoors, our 7 to 11 year old campers often got to see extraordinary sights, like a pileated woodpecker searching for bugs in an old cedar, or baby raccoons climbing up a tree as they waited for their mother. We aren’t rushed at our eco camps. We take the time to soak in these sights, and allow our campers the chance to sit and marvel at the natural world around them. One student upon seeing two baby raccoons couldn’t even believe his eyes! “Am I dreaming?” he asked, as his friend excitedly informed us that he could not wait to tell his parents all about this experience.
During SPES Eco Camps, children get to experience the outdoors in a whole new way. As we walk through the mosaic of Stanley Park’s ecosystems – forest, wetland, and beach – we interact with each of these ecosystems in meaningful ways. We explore the relationships between the plants and animals that make Stanley Park their home, and play games that teach us about the roles of different species in their ecosystems. Children learn how humans interact with these ecosystems and how they themselves can do so in a respectful and fulfilling way.
Each week also features a unique “Eco Spirit” project – a themed project that the students work on as a creative expression of the things they learn during camp. Some of these projects included creating animal masks, writing stories about characters that would live in Stanley Park, designing cards for a pokémon-style game using real plants and animals, planning and participating in a survival Olympics, and more. One highlight for us was the Eco Spirit projects from our “Water Wilderness” week. Throughout the week campers created intricate stories about the various water based ecosystems in Stanley Park. They connected these ecosystems with their favourite creatures in the Park, and at the end of the week we all got to share our stories with each other. The enthusiasm for these projects was evident in the effort that the campers put into their stories.
A favourite activity each week was our treasure hunt in the Park. Students heard the story of treasure buried at a local beach. They received treasure maps and used their maps to lead the group to several clues. When we finally reached the beach, students found where the x marks the spot, and they started to dig! They used the clues that they gathered along the way to unlock the treasure chest. After unveiling the treasure, we enjoyed swimming in the ocean and playing in the sand.
Eco Camps are an excellent avenue for connecting young people with nature. Through these outdoor experiences we try to foster a respect and appreciation for nature, all while having a lot of fun! If they can’t wait until summer, kids can register for similar day camp experiences with SPES over Spring Break next year.
By Chandehl Morgan, Environmental Educator