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  • Michelle Hoefs

Change is good - Summer Program Review

Like most of us, we were very excited to return to a “normal” summer this year. While we craved the routines and activities of the past, we also recognized the need for caution and to ensure the health and safety of our staff and program participants. So, we were back to “normal”, with a few small changes.

Eco Camp

This year, we offered three camp sessions - 1st & 2nd grade, 3rd & 4th grade, and 5th & 6th grade. Words cannot describe how excited we were to see our returning campers in person again and to meet our new campers! It was so fun to see how much everyone had grown in the past two years and hear all of their stories. It was also fun to acquaint them with our new spaces.

One of the biggest changes that we made for camp was that it was held almost entirely outdoors. In the past, we always spent as much time outside as we could, but our “home base” was inside and that was where we would work on all of our projects. This year, we revamped some unutilized space under the overhang at Old Main by putting in decking and making a covered space for our project tables. The space is amazing and we were able to work outside, protected, through any weather. It was especially nice on a rainy day as we could see, smell, and hear the rain, but still stay dry. Well, those of us that wanted to stay dry, that is!

Another new space that we enjoyed at camp is the Outdoor Classroom. Our Tiny Turtles have been using and loving the classroom for the past year and we were excited to give our Eco Campers the same opportunity. Much fun was had by all, from “cooking” in the mud kitchen to building forts to just exploring the surrounding woods. It was nice and cool under the canopy of trees on the hottest days and there were surprisingly few bugs!

In the past, we have taken each of our camps on a field trip on one of the days. It seemed more practical to forgo that option this year. Instead, we brought a field trip to them! We were so fortunate to welcome Chris and Zachariah from WonderTrek Region 5 Children’s Museum to each of our camps for a morning. They led campers on a mission into the woods with the goal of getting lost (don’t worry, we found our way out!), brought ropes and tarps to make some epic forts, taught some of the kiddos how to tie different knots, and even let our oldest campers build, ignite, and extinguish a campfire on their own, before the burning ban was instated, of course.

Other than that, it was business as usual at Eco Camp. We spent our days exploring and learning about the outdoors, stretching our thinking muscles for STEAM challenges, tapping into our imaginations for craft projects, exercising our bodies during various games, and building new friendships throughout it all.

Tiny Turtles

The biggest change for Tiny Turtles this year is that we held it during the summer. Before, Tiny Turtles started and ended with the school year and we offered a week-long, half-day Eco Camp for this age group. Instead of a PreK-K Eco Camp, we decided to extend TT into the summer months, continuing to meet on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month for 1 ½ hours. This really felt like the right choice. It was so fun to spend an entire year with some of those kiddos and really have an opportunity to watch them learn and grow throughout that time.

Another exciting change was the addition of new equipment to the Outdoor Classroom. In June, we received a grant from the Initiative Foundation to enhance our outdoor space to better serve our youngest program attendees. The new additions have been well used and enjoyed and will continue to be for future classes and programs.

While our summer wasn’t completely back to “normal”, we made some very positive changes that worked out so well we will continue to implement them in following years. We are already looking forward to next summer and the new and exciting changes it will bring.


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