Camp Elachee 2019: Week 2, June 3-7
Creek Play During Creek Days
Weather permitting, two days of each camp week are Creek Days. Even though they’re simply happy to be frolicking in the water, there are many lessons our campers learn during this guided play time.
Our junior engineers put their collective ideas and imaginations to work when tasked with building a dam. They learn how rocks and/or trees can stop water flow, impact or change a habitat with positive or negative results. This activity promotes teamwork as campers work together to find the best rocks and problem-solve when their structures don’t hold up.
Then, and just as importantly, campers must return the collected rocks and branches back to where they found them. This exercise demonstrates the concept of ‘Leave No Trace’ in a natural environment. Campers learn when visiting the forest to try and not leave too many ‘handprints,’ only ‘footprints’ so others may also enjoy the natural environment.
Studying rocks in the creek is a ton of fun for campers. They see the big rocks and then learn about ‘weathering’ by making the connection that these larger structures break down over time eventually becoming pebbles and sand. This ‘captain of the boat’ lesson plants a visual in campers’ minds to help them better understand that through erosion, deposition and decomposition over time, the parts of the original big rocks go on a voyage along the waterway to eventually get deposited in different locations. Rock hunting is also part of the adventure. Searching for different types of rocks found in the creek is a fun way to learn how to sort.
While exploring, campers invariably discover another wonder found in the creeks of Chicopee Woods – salamanders! Believe it or not, being introduced to salamanders helps campers then use their newfound dam building and rock finding skills.
Campers see this wild animal up close. Camp Counselors help them examine the salamander’s body structure, teaching them what type of animal it is, what it eats and other details about its life cycle. When trying to catch the salamanders, campers try to recreate a smaller habitat that incorporates the four core components – food, water, shelter and space – what all living creatures need to survive.
Elementary Camp: Wilderness Survival Highlights
Elementary-age campers learned valuable skills that will prove beneficial to their outdoor adventures for years to come. So, what were the favorite wilderness survival activities? Fire, snakes, shelter and archery!
For those of you with a little Camp Elachee history under your belt, no wilderness survival week would be complete without a lesson on fire starting and fire safety. Ms. Mallory, our Camp Director, led a hands-on fire activity. Campers gathered kindling material that Ms. Mallory then used to demonstrate multiple ways to start a fire. As the flames came to life, campers were also able to experience the sweet reward of a good campfire – roasting marshmallows over the fire! Closing the loop, campers learned how to keep a campfire contained and the best ways to properly extinguish a campfire.
Campers became acquainted with some of Elachee’s resident reptiles, too! Ms. Mallory was back again to introduce them to a Corn snake. Campers touched the snake to see how its skin feels. They learned how snakes are important to ecosystems and what to do when approaching a snake. The goal of this activity was to diminish the fear of and stigmas of snakes in each child’s mind by educating them. Many touched a snake for the first time – and smiled!
During this scaly introduction, our campers’ natural curiosity came out and asked many intriguing questions! What do snakes eat? What (or who) eats snakes? What is the difference between venomous and non-venomous? What is a reptile? How is a reptile different from other vertebrates? Armed with this basic knowledge, several Counselors reported their campers saw non-venomous snakes out on the trail in Chicopee Woods AND these campers knew exactly what to do, thanks to the earlier ‘touch a snake’ activity!
Camper groups also worked together as teams to make shelters. Campers collaborated on the type of shelter they would build, choosing the best location and what materials to use. Counselors provided tarps, then campers collected ‘dead, down, detached materials’ from the woods to erect their respective structures. By using these ‘collected’ materials campers also learned the importance of not disturbing the living forest ecosystem and ways to have minimal impact on their surroundings while out in nature.
Archery has become a much-anticipated tradition during wilderness survival week at Camp Elachee! Elachee Naturalist Deb DeRoche taught campers how to safely shoot a bow and arrow. One camper proved to be a natural saying, “It just feels right, the motion of shooting the arrow just feels right!” Other beneficial skills archery helps children master are learning to listen, concentrate and focus as a result of aiming for the bullseye. Campers also learned how people use the bow and arrow for food and survival.
Crafts help children interpret what they see or experience. This week, one of the senior counselors-in-training designed a craft that uses materials found in nature. The Pine Cone Bird activity was a blast. Not only did these junior Van Gogh’s create adorable bird look-a-likes, while constructing them, campers chatted about birds’ characteristics that help them survive in the wild.
Pre-K Camp: Sense of Wonder Highlights
Our Pre-K campers were introduced to wilderness survival by exploring their five senses. Because a human’s senses are often the basis for wilderness survival, this made the age-appropriate camp activities a fabulous introduction for our youngest campers.
They explored the woods using their ‘deer ears’ (cupping their hands behind their ears to amplify sounds) and by feeling the different textures of moss, tree bark, grass and rocks.
Campers practiced their sense of smell by sniffing with a dry nose versus a wet nose. Did you know that canines’ strong sense of smell is in part due to their wet noses? Try it at home and see for yourself. Our campers sure noticed a difference!
Pre-K campers greatly enjoyed the adventure of a Scavenger Hunt Hike. They used their senses to find different items, such as looking for something smooth, something green and something fragrant, etc. The campers worked together as a group to complete this hunt and to practice their teamwork and reading skills.
And yes, our Pre-K campers also learned fire safety and building a fire from Ms. Mallory. In fact, one youngster very animatedly demonstrated to Ms. Mallory how to make fire step-by-step, by rubbing two sticks together. It was too cute!
At the end of the week we were so pleased to see our campers leave happy and excited to share all they learned with their friends and family. When a counselor asked her campers to share their favorite thing, they couldn't decide, they loved everything they did the entire week. One parent even made of point of sharing how much having her kids in camp meant to her because they loved being at camp so much!
Looking Ahead While Remembering Camp Elachee Fun
The remaining Camp Elachee weeks are filling up fast, so register your camper now!
Did you see highlights from the first week of Camp Elachee 2019? Read the blog: Ready for Summer Fun.