by Lorraine Payette, written on July 31, 2013
“Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height…”
– Mary Poppins
(LANDON BAY, ONTARIO) What could possibly by more idyllic than a brilliantly green field filled with children flying kites? Yet all this fun-and-games is actually serious learning taking place.
“The kids have been building their kites for about an hour because we’re learning about weather this week and they’ve learned about the fact that wind moves the clouds and moves the weather around,” said Jennifer Martin, one of two teachers in charge of the day camp at Landon Bay. “Later they’ll learn about what causes the wind and why it’s important.”
Each week, about 30 students from the ages of 5 – 11 qualify to take part in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Nature Camps held at Landon Bay over the course of the summer. There are eight weekly sessions in total, each with a different focus as students learn their way through the summer.
“I like going for the hikes,” said Ethan Kehoe, 9, from Lansdowne. Everyone agreed with him on this – hikes are definitely a popular part of this camping experience.
Hayden Hunt, almost 8, also liked the hikes.
“You can learn a lot,” he said. “And I really like the scavenger hunts.”
“We’ve learned a lot and we make forts and other stuff,” said Violet McGregor, 7, Gananoque. “We see a lot of things like cool sticks and lots of wood. And we saw a snake on the Bay Trail.”
Although she says it was a good snake, she admits she doesn’t like them very much.
Mollee Major, 6, said, “My favourite thing about camp is making kites.”
And make kites they did, decorating each one to look exactly the way they wanted it to, and attaching it to a bright red cord. Then it was time to race to the field and get them all up, up and away.
“Today we’re flying kites,” said Amanda Kain, the other director at the Nature Camp. “We’re learning about the wind for weather week, and we made parachutes yesterday. Our theme for the week is Natural Nightmares, and we have a really good group this week. Everyone seems to be enjoying a lot of the outdoor games that we have. This morning we played a huge game of Capture the Flag, which they really got into, and they really like the hiking that we do.”
Although there is a very large range in the ages of the campers, they manage to do most things together with the older students helping the younger ones when the learning gets a little tougher.
“The camp is made up of one week sessions, and each week has a new theme,” said Kain. “All of the themes are designed around the Ontario curriculum. Jenn and I are both teachers, so we plan all of the major activities around the curriculum that they’d be learning in school anyway. This year the camp runs from July 1 until August 23, an eight week stretch. We have some campers who are here all summer, then there are others who come for only one or two or three. It all depends on the individuals.”
The most popular session every year is the last one, which includes a camp out and play day on the last day. There is an extra charge of $10, but all of the kids who have come throughout the summer are invited and they get to stay overnight in tents, roast wienies and make s’mores and tell stories. Then they get a chance to use a telescope to look at the stars and learn to identify some of the constellations.
There is also a new volunteer program at the camp.
“This year, for the first year ever, we’ve let some of our older campers who have aged out of the program come back to volunteer as Counsellors in Training (CITs),” said Martin. “If they had reached the age of twelve by this summer, they could come back and volunteer. They could come back for any weeks they wanted, as often as they wanted. We have a few who are coming back for almost the entire summer, volunteering and helping us out and, if they are going into grade nine this fall, they are getting their hours for high school. They’re also getting reference letters so that when they are old enough to get a job, they’re ahead of their game.”
The CITs help by setting up games, preparing crafts, setting up the hall, making sure the campers all use their sunscreen and insect repellent properly, and assist the younger campers with their activities. Since some of the activities are harder for the five-year-olds, the volunteers make it possible for them to learn the same things the older kids are learning. Over the summer they’ve had about six different volunteers.
“They really enjoy it,” said Martin. “They get to come back to the camp, but because they’re older, this lets them still fit in. They get to play and do all the camp things they did before, but because they’re older they get to help out more and learn responsibility.
This year’s sessions have been “What Lives Beneath Us”, “A World of Wonder”, “First Nations Week”, “Digging in the Dirt”, and “Natural Nightmares”. Still to come are “Diamonds in the Rough”, “Nasty Nature” and “Across the Universe”. Most sessions are full, but a few spots might remain available in one of the sessions. To learn more, please go to http://www.landonbay.org/naturecamp.htm .