The Camps at the Cayuga Nature Center
It is an absolute privilege to be serving for a third summer as Camp Director, especially as we celebrate this season our camps thirtieth summer in operation. Since it’s establishment in 1986, there has been significant change within our society, and the daily life of the American child has been modified by the advent of the internet and the widespread use of smartphones and tablet devices. Modern technologies undoubtedly offer an educational advantage in allowing easy access to information for students, and have been integrated heavily into schools across the country.
While relevant in a traditional classroom, the digital screen has yet to find a significant place within our summer camp. When compared to the sights, sounds, scents, and textures of our landscape, it’s capabilities are not nearly as captivating as one hundred acres of diverse habitat. Here, the common keyboard is set aside in favor of the classic camp activities and games that we have enjoyed since 1986, integrated each season with new programs and varied themes to explore each week. Many of these traditions appear timeless in their appeal to campers, as shelter villages appear every summer between the trees, hours are spent streamside in search of salamanders, and rotting logs are rolled back to reveal tangles of the crawling life below. When it comes to the natural world, even interactive technology falls short in catering to the extended expeditions of curiosity vital to a developing mind.
Such organic exploration, as well as its educational value, is clear and evident in our campers. Despite an absence of technology, they are vigilant in observing, questioning, and theorizing in how the natural world works. The environment engages all senses, with one novel discovery often leading to others in the dynamic classroom of the outdoors. Our animate and passionate educators act as interpreters of the earth, calling attention to the subtler details, passing on invaluable knowledge, and modeling a strong reverence for the wonders around them that keeps campers engaged.
Many camper alumni now send their children to our camp, as they have been witness to the merit of our program. In respect to its nostalgic value, it is crucial to continue the conservation of the camp tradition and of its most important asset, the natural world. While environmental change may alter our outdoor experience in the years to come, there is a unique opportunity to monitor and reflect on these changes as they unfold, and to create a generational memory of the world as it is now. In observing our impact in action, we hope to resurrect a relationship with our native landscape based in stewardship and conservation that will remain with campers beyond their time at camp. With distraction and disconnect from nature prevalent in the modern era, the preservation of these fading ideals is essential to our environmental future. Their endurance in our campers today is hopeful insurance that for now, and for years to come, our summers will be spent as they always have been; in the timeless pursuit of exploration within the natural world.
Environmental Education Manager
About Summer Learning Loss
“All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.”
— National Summer Learning Association (summerlearning.org)