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Wilderness camp to teach kids real world skills

By Amy Fauth 3 min read
article image - Jacobs Creek Watershed Association

Adults of a certain age can recall a childhood filled with standing mid-calf in a local creek and exploring the nature around them. But for kids of this modern age dominated by technology, their only exposure to a variety of nature-based topics may be through a nature camp.

Alex Busato, Jacobs Creek Watershed Association’s Young Naturalist Camp program coordinator, and his staff members are excited to bring the camp to children ages 11-13.

“For a lot of these kids, this is the first time ever they’ve been exposed to a lot of these topics,” said Busato.

The immersive camp teaches kids the skills and knowledge they need to become young naturalists, and is a successor to last year’s popular Tot-Time and Nature Explorer day camps. The program provides an overnight educational experience with a more strongly themed wilderness and survival concept, which is a follow-up to last year’s experience.

It will be held June 10-12 in the woods and water around the Laurelville Retreat Center.

According to Busato, the theme for this year’s camp is “Wilderness Survival” and it will feature a number of activities, including: orienteering and map reading, fire starting and campfire cooking, first aid, foraging and primitive hunting, kayaking and environmental stewardship.

Busato expects a lot of his campers will be familiar faces from the JCWA’s day camps last year, and this camp was developed so that young campers will get the base from Tot-Time (2-6 years old) and Nature Explorer (7-10 years old) and then can “graduate” to the sleepaway camp.

According to Busato, the challenge for the program’s staff is filling every minute of the day for campers.

“Too much free time can turn into chaos,” Busato joked.

The point of the program is to try to connect children with the ecosystem and the watershed in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“You can’t protect what you don’t know,” Busato said, noting it’s a simple notion but it really guides environmental education. “If we can get them to start caring about nature and not taking it for granted, then we’ve done our job.”

This is the 25th year of operation for the JCWA, which is working to bolster its educational programs. They are adding programming to the camps they are already doing, and Busato said it seems to be working.

“The kids really seem to respond well to it.”

The Young Naturalist Sleepaway Camp is $260 per child. The registration fee includes two nights of lodging in cabins with linens included, six buffet-style meals and one campfire meal, trained counselors (two male, two female) who will provide constant supervision, and camp handouts and other materials.

For information or to register, contact alex@jacobscreekwatershed.org or call 724-619-1017.

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