Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 24, 2014

Summer weather adventures

By Pamela Holz | Aug 09, 2012

“So, how’s your summer going?” Sounds like such an easy question, but without an easy answer. Not this year.

The greater portion of my summer time is made up of either leading summer camps or preparing for summer camps. I fully enjoy my camps and the ability and flexibility to do activities that just are not feasible for school programs.

This year, however, I pulled out my old camp schedules to plan for this year’s activities and thought, bleh.

My camps are organized so that any child can sign up for the same camp two years in a row (except Mink, which is three years). In order to prevent repetition for them, my camp schedule also rotates every other year. We do have some activities that are a must every year: fishing, water study, etc. I also tweak activities and plans, adding new stuff, changing older stuff. In other words, no two schedules are ever alike, but the bare bones and concepts remain the same every other year.

Any program, though, can become stale. How could I pass on my enthusiasm for the outdoors when I was not enthused myself? Thus, I began the summer with the decision to scrap my old schedules and start anew. I introduced an underlying theme for the entire week and changed the focuses for each day. I kept the old favorites, but viewed them differently.

All this meant more work for me preparing for the camps, but even early on, watching the campers, I considered the changes a success.

Then July came. And I was faced with three new components to the summer: ongoing high temperatures, continued lack of rainfall, and an unusual inconsistency with tick populations.

I’ve had to re-work plans around high temperatures before. However, a month of three digit degree temps meant I had to re-work entire schedules, not just a day or two. At 100 degrees, I couldn’t really take kids outside for more than 30-45 minutes at a stretch. For a three-hour a day, five day camp, that’s a lot of time inside.

And staying indoors is a bit, well, counter to the whole point of a nature camp. Never thought I’d deal with cabin fever in July.

Some activities I could alter enough for indoors. Some regular indoor portions could be extended or made more complex. I also discovered the wonders of obstacle courses: crawl through the chipmunk tunnel (chairs), bobcat leap between two cliffs (hula hoops), find by feel a tasty morsel for a raccoon, etc.

Mink Camp, my oldest with 5th-7th graders, was the toughest to modify till at the 11th hour I came up with a competition idea. Divide the kids into teams and place point values for every activity. Even school-like appearing activities hold interest with prizes at stake (even if the prizes were small like suckers).

The lack of rainfall sort of sneaked up on my camps. Berry picking dropped by the wayside. Wildlife altered habits. Water levels dropped.

My campers love wading in the study pond, often the highlight of the week for them. Originally a borrow site for dirt for the center, we’ve added structures and a rocky shore for water critter catching. Encouraged to wade out, the campers bring back tadpoles, crawdads, and a host of aquatic insects. In turn, they get to get wet. Sometimes very wet.

This summer’s drought lowered the pond to below the rock – into the mud. Left with a stagnant puddle great for swallowing shoes and not much else, I made the regretful decision to cancel pond wading for the summer.

Lastly, the tick level rose and fell throughout the entire summer, making one week crawling with ticks and the next, very few to be seen. For a couple camps, I held a tick contest to see who found the most ticks on themselves. After all, if you are going to pick off twelve to thirty ticks in a week, you ought to at least get a consolation prize out of it. (And since we are talking kids here, a few of them actually did want to win).

As I look to wrapping up the summer and camps, I am grateful for a bit of rain and cooler weather. Necessity being the mother of invention, I now also have a few new ideas to file away as camp activities.

My summer may not have been easy, but it definitely was not boring.

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