Each child has inestimable worth
Summertime is for children
Nature is an inspiring classroom and teacher
Practice mutual respect for the natural world and for one another
"Our labor is to bring all persons to their own teacher in themselves.” (source: George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quaker religion)
Everything we do at Nature Camps is rooted in the philosophies and practices of “a sense of wonder,” mixed age learning, adventure education, the joy of choosing, and challenge by choice. Learn more about these philosophies below.
A Sense of Wonder
Children are realists. They want to experience things first hand. When children are studying their environment and its wonders, life becomes a little more understandable and touchable to them. Even more appealing to children is the fact that learning outdoors is fun and lets them have a good time while learning.
Children know that realities excite them: the realities of sun and wind and rain; of a calf that licks your hand when you feed her; rows of corn that can mean corn roasts later on; of mountains to climb that challenge young muscles; and of subsistence training that tests knowledge of wilderness roots, berries, and plants. All of this excitement is fueled by further instilling a sense of wonder in children and folks of all ages.
Writer, researcher, biologist, and grandmother Rachel Carson wrote the following in her book A Sense of Wonder:
"A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength."
— Rachel Carson
Nature Camps staff actively nurture a sense of wonder in their role as facilitators. In being with children in nature, we withhold judgment. We accept the uniqueness of individuals and their very real presence in exploring, creating and discovering. We enjoy, without interpreting, the beauty of the child's process, the beauty of the child's uniqueness, the beauty of their sense of wonder. This is what Nature Camps' staff embody.
Throughout our 45 years, the diary of Opal Whiteley has offered us inspiration in our efforts to nurture a sense of wonder at Nature Camps. Opal: The Journal of an Understanding Heart is the turn-of-the-century diary of the extraordinary six-year-old Opal. This book is dear to the heart of Nature Camps, as we read it often amongst our staff and with children. Opal is simply enchanting—hers is a life affirming story, both magical and real!
"Morning is glad on the hills,
The sky sings in blue tones.
Little blue fleurs are early blooming now.
I do so like blue.
It is glad everywhere.
When I grow up I am going to write a book about the glad of blues.
The earth sings in green."
Why We Nurture a Sense of Wonder
Children who better understand their place in the environment become something else themselves - they become environmental stewards. What a person connects to, they care for. And when each of us cares for our natural heritage today, then collectively we will preserve our global natural heritage for tomorrow. At Nature Camps, we facilitate ways for children and teens to experience the beauty, marvels, and intricacies of nature. We give children opportunities to feel their environment. To draw it close to them. To love it. To understand it as an intrinsic part of themselves. Children then build an understanding of and an appreciation for the natural world, and their place in it.
Mixed Age Learning
Since 1974, Nature Camps philosophy is that children learn best by doing, especially doing things that interest them. And doing it with children of many ages works wonders.
It is not difficult to teach children of various ages and abilities at Nature Camps, especially with experienced and skilled outdoor educators. The intimacy of a mixed age atmosphere (5-16) resembles a family. In this relaxed atmosphere, high levels of aspiration are encouraged naturally and the discouragement is taken out of failures, replaced by the joy of cooperative effort and the reinforcement of skills when children coach one another. They are teachers as well as learners.
The family grouping of various ages gives children consistency, reliability, and a safe and stable feeling of knowing where they are going in their learning. The pleasant feeling of cooperative learning does two things: it cuts across age range and abilities and brings joy to ever-eager learners who are now also smiling, satisfied teachers.
Children are being exposed to a way of life. Understanding this is very important.
Adventure education is an active, experiential approach to individual or group learning that
uses an activity base, such as cooperative group games, ropes course, hikes, or wilderness expeditions;
uses real and/or perceived (physical and psychological) risk as a clinically significant agent to bring about desired change;
makes meaning(s), through insights that are expressed verbally, nonverbally, or unconsciously, that lead to behavioral change; and
uses reflection on the activity to discuss the close connections between adventure experience and campers' “everyday” lives.
The Joy of Choosing
At Nature Camps, each session begins with a day and a half of orientation, including an all-day hike, making a fire to cook ink to draw and write with, making nature journals, playing initiatives, taking the swim test, and cooling off at the pool. After this introductory day and a half, children choose all of their activities.
The joy of choosing allows children the delight of deciding what they (and their friends) want to do within a structured, safe and secure environment. Daily activity choices include both half-day and all-day options, and there is always something for everyone.
This is what makes Nature Camps unique and meaningful, allowing children to choose by placing value upon the inestimable worth of each child. And it carries over to the Family Overnights and Concerts, where children and their parents can decide what they would most like to do.
Challenge By Choice
Adventure activities can present elements of physical and emotional risk. Counselors facilitating such activities are guided by the “challenge by choice” philosophy. They encourage each individual to join in, rather than be coerced into participation. This philosophy not only allows children to understand themselves as empowered young people, but also teaches a sense of autonomy over one's own body and mind and allows children an opportunity to begin to learn about consent and self awareness in a gentle and healthy way.