A Sense of Wonder

Mixed Aged Learning

Nature Journaling


Parents Letters

Teen Perspective

Director's Perspective

Counselor's Perspective

Grown-up Camper Perspective

Adventure Therapy

Experiential Learning

Published Papers


. . . If we can get all our children to think as they do when at Nature Camps, we will be truly building the future.

Dear Don,

We offer our sincerest thanks to you and your staff. You have created a respectful, caring, environment for children to "just be" at camp.

Contentment, joyfulness, creativity and friendships flourish along with a connection to the natural world when kids don't feel scheduled.

Nature Camps strikes that balance between structure and freedom beautifully. I feel so thankful that Emma and Jacob had this opportunity to spread their wings in such a place with such special people.
Words seem completely inadequate....Some people truly make the world a better place by just being in it.

I believe this is true of all of you. Until Next Year With Our Thanks,

Henry, Shelly, Emma and Jacob Slyker

Dear Don,

My basic idea is that if we can get all our children to think as they do when at Nature Camps, we will be truly building the future.

I have a rally cry in the house now, it’s our NC cry: We are campers! When there is friction or the boys are upset with someone I say, “Let’s be NCs and think of a nice thing about the person. They laugh and start imagining the situation as if at camp. Naturally it turns into a positive thing. I have no idea what you do or how you do it, but it works. The children are in heaven, truly, and all they talk about is next summer.

I now have four families near me, age ranges from 5 through to 13 who have joined the NC family. And all the kids play as one, as campers! So you see, your influence does go out beyond the bounds of camp!

Another world

When you turn the corner and see the sign “Turtle Speed,” you enter another world. All around are happy, dirty, content faces with smiles and laughter. They are all ages [see Mixed Age Learning], and the interactions between the different age groups are incredible.

Then you talk to the children. They are wondrous of their surroundings, they have happy tales to tell of hikes, and forts, and the ropes course. They hold hands and sing in the big circle, they part with warm wishes knowing they will all be together again tomorrow for more adventures.

And the wonder starts

And then the true wonder starts. Their talk on the ride home is of feats their peers have accomplished, of the way little Joe got through the ropes course, or the fantastic chess set Pete carved, or the amazing butterfly Emily found, or the magic story a counselor told.
They cherish each day as something special and mostly the people that were there to make it so. There is no back-stabbing, no “she said,” and “he did.” There are no negative comments about fellow campers, just praise and acknowledgement of accomplishments, no matter how small.

They do not concentrate on themselves, but on others, and their surroundings. They become aware. If we can bring this lesson from Nature Camps to all people, and into our schools, we will truly be building the future.
I only went for a walk…

And the most amazing aspect is that it can, and does, carry over into their lives out of camp. It can help them see the world outside of camp as, perhaps, not as peaceful, but a place to learn to accept and cherish others, to be happy about other people’s accomplishments, to look outside of themselves. On one of the mugs from camp is the saying “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out I found, was really going in” [John Muir]. At Nature Camps, you can really do this and find out who you are.

— Lynette Scott

Children are allowed to take risks in a place that’s safe.


We love Nature Camps because:

Children and their choices are respected.

Kids have options; minutes, hours, and days are low-key and unpressured. So if a child wants to sit under a tree or swing or swim for most of the day, that’s great! That’s summer!

Children are allowed to take risks in a place that’s safe.

Everyone respects the natural and interpersonal environment and these values are taught.

The sleep over is a great “leveler” in our family of non-campers. Claire is as expert/non-expert as we are. And we all have fun!

— Claire Lidston, Camper,
Jill Leukhardt and Marty Lidston

Nature Camp was a two-week adventure for my children. They adventured into the woods and into streams. They adventured into crafts, having the opportunity to experiment and explore many different mediums, many of which they found in nature. They also adventured into friendships with kids and grown-ups of all ages. One thing that I found very gratifying (and fun!) as a parent was that I was welcomed and encouraged to join in some of my children's adventures-Big Circle, the overnight, as well as any activity that my children wanted me to be part of.

What I liked most about Nature Camps for my children was that the kids were given time to explore, work, and play at their own pace-a very rare thing in today's fast-paced world. The counselors were great at encouraging the kids to go at their own pace and to do as much as they could for themselves. What a wonderful sense of accomplishment my children brought home with them.

—Shannon Good, mother of two campers, ages 7 and 5.

What I liked about Nature Camps was that we got to choose which activities we wanted to do and we could choose by what the activity was or by who was doing it. I liked being with some different people and some of the same people every day. I liked doing the Ropes Course the best. It got easier and easier every time, and it was hard and fun.

—Brianne, age 7.



“Hey mom, I found three salamanders today – they were so cool. One had spots on it.
Can I do that again tomorrow?”

Nature Camps is unique. In identifying specific needs of every child at Nature Camps, counselors find new
ways to do what they already do well. First, they identify the strengths of individual children. Secondly,
they make use of the knowledge that children influence one another. As children discover their sources of strength, they create positive influences upon each other. Counselors help fulfill a child’s need to be recognized and celebrated. By the end of a typical camp day, children have done many novel things, bringing forth remarkable happiness. An example of this is found here in a Mom’s letter about her son’s experience:

August 15, 2006

Greetings Don and all of the Nature Camps Staff:

My son Luke recently attended six weeks at Nature Camps. I want to share my thoughts with all of you about his (and my) experience.

I wanted to send him to Nature Camps last summer, but didn’t ‘find out’ about your camp in time. This year I was determined to send him to Nature Camps. He was very excited about coming.

Let me share with you some background about Luke. Luke has a great deal of difficulty with changes, making choices, and has a lot of social anxiety. He is being evaluated for these issues. I really wanted him to enjoy camp, and worried like crazy about how he’d do each day. I wasn’t sure if changing his summer routine would be good for him, but wanted to give it a shot, and your camp sounded perfect. I really wanted him to feel free to enjoy things at a slow pace with lots of support.

The first few days were rocky, but Luke was all smiles when I picked him up. The one moment that I thought, “Wow!” was as follows: I arrived at Nature Camps to find that Luke was out hiking. I waited around for several minutes. Then, out of nowhere, I started to hear yelling, and the sounds of lots of children running in the woods. I saw children with big, huge, muddy smiles – and there was Luke!! I got a lump in my throat. There he was all smiley and yelling and waving a knobby, twisted stick in his hand. I haven’t seen him so happy and excited in a very long time.

Another moment was on the way home from camp one afternoon: “Hey, Mom. I found three salamanders today. They were so cool. One had spots on it. Can I do that again tomorrow?”

Or the day he discovered wine berries: “Mom, I picked lots of berries today. They are ok to eat. I am going to pick you some next time.” Sure enough he did pick some to share another day.

We’ve had endless conversations about poison ivy, jewel weed, wine berries, glow worms, fireflies, pea shooters, bamboo, the pool, bugs and butterflies, ground bees, and his first time canoeing. There are too many little stories to retell in this letter. Our camp overnight experiences were simply grand!

I am writing this letter to tell you that Nature Camps holds a special place in Luke’s (and his parent’s) hearts. I am sure that Luke had his ‘moments’ where he tested his counselors and had trouble fitting in… but I am so happy that you made his summer so memorable to him. Before camp, Luke never talked about how his day went. But I can’t keep him from telling me about camp. I think I’ve heard stories about the Mud People and the Fairies that live in the woods a million times.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU – For giving my son a gift of time and room to spread his wings. We recommend Nature Camps to everyone, even to parents of a child with autism or anxiety disorders. I’m glad we gave it a chance. Hopefully, my letter allows you to understand the depth of my thanks. I’ll end with a quote that I found fitting:

“Come forth into the light of things. Let Nature be your teacher.”
William Wordsworth, The Tables Turned

Please share with your staff our appreciation and gratitude for their hard work.

Once again, A Thousand Thank You’s! Hope to see you all next year!

Warmly, Kelly Furgason