Summer Camps for Kids = Best Summer Ever

By Community Services & Education

Charlie, 10, stands at the shooting line. When he hears the single whistle command, he draws back his bow and then releases it. His arrow hits the target slightly off center, but he’s encouraged.

“Good release, Charlie. Now stand tall, shoulders back. You got this,” says Adam Carlson, a Forest Preserve District ranger and camp instructor. Charlie shoots again, this time hitting his mark. He gives Carlson a high-five.

Charlie and 11 other children are taking part in the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s “Ranger Adventure Camp,” which introduces archery, paddling, fishing and hiking as well as team-building, navigation and wilderness-survival skills at Mayslake and Herrick Lake forest preserves.

“The kids like the autonomy the camp provides, but they also quickly pick up on the different ways each activity ties in with the natural features of our forest preserves,” explains ranger David Sima.

These ranger-led programs are just two of 26 camps the Forest Preserve District is offering throughout summer 2017 for ages 4 to 15, each designed to inspire a spirit of adventure and build a strong connection with nature.

“Not too long ago our summer camps were at two or three locations. Now they take place at almost a dozen forest preserves across the county,” says Chris Gingrich of Community Services & Education. “And with easy online registration, it’s no longer ‘How do we sign up?’ but ‘What are we going to sign up for?’”
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Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center, St. James Farm and Willowbrook Wildlife Center programs focus on the plants, wildlife and landscapes that make up DuPage County. Fullersburg alone offers “Bug Buddies,” “Habitat Hunters,” “Trailblazing Adventures” and 12 other camps that allow kids to investigate the outdoors like real naturalists. 

“My kids are now excited about science and nature.”   

“They hike, fish, invent, hunt for and examine rocks, try experiments, get dirty, all while learning about science and nature — often without realizing it!” says Fullersburg naturalist Susan Urasky.

Little explorers at St. James Farm learn about prairies and woodlands on guided hikes and enjoy activities inside a real caboose at “Choo-Choo and Nature, Too.” At Willowbrook Wildlife Center, campers come face-to-face with birds, bugs, snakes, frogs, toads and turtles during “Wildlife Explorers” or “Cold-Blooded Critter Camp,” and in 2017 older kids will be able to spend time behind-the-scenes at this one-of-a-kind wildlife rehabilitation facility. 

"I love it here."   

“Our new ‘Junior Keeper Camp’ gives ages 9 to 12 a rare chance to help the injured or orphaned wildlife that make up such a large part of what we do here at Willowbrook,” explains Stephanie Touzalin, a naturalist at the center. “Children will help prepare special foods, clean the cages, and, in many cases, know the thrill of releasing rehabilitated animals back into the wild.”

Of course the District’s summer lineup would not be the same without three longstanding favorites. For nearly 30 years Kline Creek Farm’s “Farmhands” has let boys and girls experience first-hand how children lived in the 1890s, from feeding livestock, doing the wash and preparing a noon meal from scratch on a woodburning stove to playing old-fashioned games and taking horse-drawn hayrides.  

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“It’s always great to see how they gain so much enjoyment from activities that would have made their 1890s counterparts, well, less than enthusiastic,” muses Wayne Hill, a heritage interpreter at the farm.

Danada Equestrian Center has welcomed kids and teens for almost as long to “Horse Sense,” where hands-on experiences with horses mix with stable chores, games, crafts and lead-line rides, and “Riding Sense,” which adds the challenges of a riding program and daily instruction.

“People have been fascinated with horses for as long as there have been people and horses, so we’re thrilled here at Danada to be able to offer today’s kids and teens a way to form their own connections with these remarkable animals,” says Shelley Schweitzer, who works at the center and has helped with camps for several years.

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This summer, the Forest Preserve District also has options for young nature lovers who like to put pen or paint to paper. New this year, “Creativity Camp” at Mayslake Peabody Estate guides artists through literature- and writing-related games or experiments with oil painting, printmaking and more unconventional mediums. 

“Can’t wait to sign up each year.”   

“Exploring the outdoors is vital to any child’s development but so is learning how to creatively express and share what those experiences mean,” says Kendra Strubhart, the heritage interpreter at Mayslake who helped develop the camp.

If you couldn’t tell, the Forest Preserve District is looking forward to a summer of fun, and we hope your young campers will be a part of it! 

(Source: The Conservationist)

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