Science Bloggers for Students DonorsChoose Challenge

Monday, July 13, 2009

Adventures from Summer Camp

Forest Park Summer Youth Program (a.k.a Summer Nature Camp) has come to an end. I wish it were a little longer. Having more money would be great, plus I got some really great experience in informal science education and outreach. It really was a perfect fit for me - urban ecology and inner-city kids.

The first day was a bit rough, though. It was a miserably hot day and the Boys & Girls Club kids weren't really sure what "nature camp" would be like. By the second day, things were better. They were enjoying themselves, playing the games, and digging the raccoon circles. Plus, it helped that all the stuff we promised them that they would see and experience started to happen -- fishing, seeing wild animals, pointing out interesting plants, flowers, and bugs.

In our wrap-up discussion, one of the things we (camp counselors) discussed was how effective we've been in reaching these kids. We think the camp was a hit and the kids really seemed to enjoy it. My heart was all happy when they reached out to hug me as they departed, boys tussling over wanting to sit next to me on the bus, when they say thank you at the end of the trip, when they would point out some great scientific concept, and exclamations of "best field trip, ever".


One of the reasons we think it went over so well was the fact that the kids were younger, 6-10 years of age. In previous years, the program worked with a wider range of ages -kids from 6-14 years old. The older kids often complained, so the Club directors decided to let them skip camp this year.

But what happens with kids once they hit those middle & high school ages? Yes, many become easily bored, so engagement is the key. My previous informal science education experiences have been with teenagers and I've always felt that those ages were consistently neglected in informal science education. So what to do?

We decided if there were money for it, there should be a second Forest Park Summer Youth Program for kids ages 11-14 (Camp II). That way they wouldn't have to co-mingle with the younger kids. This would also let them experience something new if they had attended the summer nature camp in the past. We'd also let them choose to participate. Unlike the younger kids, summer nature camp is obligatory. This would allow for smaller group sizes and more one-on-one interaction with the counselor(s). Finally, Camp II would be more hands-on and investigative, like the F.E.A.R. Factor (Future Ecologists As Researchers) program I and Lyndell Bade founded at the University of Missouri-St Louis, a while back. Teens from local high schools spent the summer exploring urban ecology, wildlife, plants and human-impact questions in local parks, including Forest Park.

Looks like were on to a great idea, too bad limited funds always kills these things. So, if you're a Science Education/Urban Education/Science Outreach Benefactor shoot me and Lyndell a note.

Enjoy the pictures from camp.

Headed out on a hike - Powder Valley Nature. We went on A LOT of hikes!
(Photo by Elena Porcelli)

Girls doing science! Stream ecology, looking for macroinvertebrates in the water at Powder Valley Nature Area. (Photo by Olena Zhadko)

Me holding a toad. Toads were by far the most popular wildlife during camp. We saw lots of them, plus they are easy to catch and handle. The kids loved them! (Photo by Elena Porcelli)

Counselors preparing for the day. (Photo by Elena Porcelli)

Eye-spy a wild flower.
(Photo by DNLee)
Kids fishing!
(Photo by DNLee)
Locust tree outside of the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club infected by some sort of caterpillar. Outside. (Photo by DNLee)

Observing ducks at Forest Park. (Photo by DNLee)

Observing ducks at Forest Park. (Photo by DNLee)

"So long, farewell, auf weidersehen good-bye" - End of camp. (Photo by Elena Porcelli)

3 comments:

Rachel Washington said...

loved the article and pics....sigh...miss those camp days myself...sniff.

love you!

Peterson Family said...

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest...

I live in St. Louis too and I post all kinds of stuff we do around town! I can't wait to check out more of your blog!!

~Lori

The Redhead Riter said...

Love the pics! Nice camp experience.

It is a marvelously Super Saturday!
Sending blog ♥
Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest

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