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Nature Inside Out Graphic

Camp Goes Virtual!

We’re taking the Mass Audubon nature camp experience online!

Join us virtually each week for a unique, engaging, and fun series of week-long nature-education experiences—both inside and out! Each one-week session will include virtual discussion and instruction; daily themed nature quests and activities designed to get you outside and exploring nature in your backyard or neighborhood; a “Wacky Wednesday” dress-up theme; a Thursday evening all-camp program; and more.

We’ll get to know each other through live virtual meetings and explore nature through images, videos, hands-on activities, and explorations at home and in your neighborhood.

What to Expect

Activities will be differentiated for each age group, K–Grade 2 and Grades 3–5. Upon registration, you will receive an email with the schedule for the week and links to our meeting times and videos. Each day, campers will receive a Nature Quest—this might be a game, activity, science experiment, cooking project, or even an art project.

Register Today!

Nature Inside Out Virtual Summer Camp

Session Themes

Click one of the sessions below to learn more and register your child today.

Session 1: Creature Power     

July 20–24, 2020

Each day, we’ll investigate a group of organisms and learn about their “superpowers,” like how pillbugs and worms create dirt, how chipmunks can carry piles of food three times larger than their heads, and how salamanders can breathe through their skin! You’ll create an insect scent trail or go on a plant adaptation scavenger hunt, learn about the types of amphibians that can be found in your neighborhood, and make a craft from a recycled paper tube. At the end of the week, unlock your own superpower to help take care of nature. 

Session 2: Water, Stones, Fossils, Bones

July 27–31, 2020

What gems of knowledge can we discover by studying dirt and soil? Explore rocks and minerals, bones and fossils, and even volcanoes! Uncover your inner geologist and archaeologist as you grow your own crystals, discover the recipe for soil, and make “glacier gloo,” volcanoes that erupt, and nature fossils. Each day, we’ll investigate concepts that help us learn about the foundations of the Earth.   

Session 3:  Habitat Detectives

August 3–7, 2020

What do grass, rabbits, fungus, rocks, humans, and ants have in common? We are all strands in a complex web of life. Become a habitat detective in your own backyard, in the middle of a city, or at a nearby park. The only tools you need are your keen observational skills as you take a close look and learn about the world around you and learn about the roles that both living and non-living things play in keeping nature in balance. Explore the layers of the forest, play meadow Simon Says, create a pond creature, make a web of life, and more! 

Session 4: Seussical Science

August 10–14, 2020

Inspired by a Dr. Seuss book each day, we will focus on the message of the story to investigate and learn about nature. Care about the smallest creatures like Horton and wonder what comes down from the sky like Bartholomew. Explore the biodiversity in your backyard, take a micro-hike to see tiny worlds, learn about states of matter, create your own special adaptation, and make some Oobleck. Older campers will take Fernie the Fish on an adventure while younger campers will “make it rain” in an imaginary town. 

Session 5: Things with Wings

August 17–21, 2020

Learn all about winged creatures! Birds, bats, butterflies, bees, and so much more—you will learn about how they fly, what they eat, and where they live. Create a new species of bird, learn how bats find their food and what they like to eat, discover what color of flowers to plant to attract butterflies, play a dragonfly life cycle game, and dance like a bee. 

Session 6: Go Green

August 24–28, 2020

Where would we be without plants and clean air? Spend the week discovering different plants, what they can be used for, and how important they are to keeping our Earth healthy. Learn how trees recycle nutrients and play a recycling game, discover the important job of pollinators in producing the food we eat, and see how composting leftovers can help the garden grow. 

What is Nature Camp? And Why Should You Try It?

It is summer camp registration season, and that means it’s decision time! Summer is an ideal time for children to be outside, but choosing between camp opportunities can be overwhelming. How do you pick between dozens of options? And why should you consider nature camp?

Photo: Phil Doyle

Why Nature Camp

According to studies done by Common Sense Media in 2017, children ages 4–8 spend three hours per day in front of a screen (outside of school), and that number climbs to over six hours once they reach teenage years. Our camp community is designed to turn that trend on its head and create a new, happy generation of nature enthusiasts who are comfortable in nature and just as excited to share it with others as we are.

Mass Audubon campers laugh, sing, play, and do all of the wacky, fun activities that make summer camp special, and they experience hands-on learning in nature. Exploration and discovery fuel our programming, because campers are curious. Camp activities include things like carefully rolling logs in search of salamanders, dipping nets into ponds to catch water bugs, paddling Massachusetts’ rivers and estuaries, exploring salt marshes for crabs and eels, and tagging butterflies in meadows.

Why You Should Try It

We believe giving campers the opportunity to learn about their surroundings creates better outdoorspeople, community members, and future environmentalists. Additionally, it teaches campers valuable skills like creativity, observation, and self-confidence while giving them opportunities to move and play in both structured and unstructured ways that stimulate mental and social growth.

Our unique and wonderful summer staff help make this possible. We hire counselors who have experience working with children and a passion for sharing their knowledge of the outdoors. Some counselors join us for specific programs based on their area of knowledge in order to deliver the best possible program for our campers. Paddling instructors, nature photographers, birding experts, professional artists, and others enrich the camp experience.

Many campers become Counselors-in-Training (CITs) as teens and eventually staff. Some even go on to be leaders in the environmental and education fields.

Find a Camp Near You!

Mass Audubon offers 20 different camp experiences, from day camps for four-year-olds, to overnight camp for children in elementary and middle school, to teen travel and adventure opportunities—all focused on connecting your child with nature.

Come for a summer experience filled with all the magic and wonder of traditional day camp, and stay for the wildlife, exploration, and new friends. Laugh, love, and learn something new at a Mass Audubon camp this summer!

— Zach D’Arbeloff, Drumlin Farm’s Assistant Camp Director

In Your Words: Camper Mia Papazian

Fourteen-year-old Mia Papazian loves hip-hop, dance, Spanish class, ice hockey, and camp. She has attended Boston Nature Center (BNC) Summer Camp in Mattapan since she was five. Here, this nature hero tells us what keeps her coming back every summer.

Mia Papazian
Mia Papazian

I have always been “into” nature, even though my family never camped before. I like the smell of the breeze and the fresh air, looking at plants and animals and bugs… there’s nothing I don’t like about being outdoors.

That’s why I started coming to camp at BNC. There are so many parts of camp I love, it’s hard to pick a favorite! Some of my best memories are the sleepovers—staying overnight at camp with my friends, sleeping in tents, learning how to build a fire, and making s’mores.

I really enjoy the nature walks. Before I came to camp, I used to be afraid of bugs. But during these walks we learned a lot about plants and insects. Now, I would never kill a bug, and if I see one inside, I bring it outside.

Mia (third kayak from right) paddling while volunteering at Wildwood, Mass Audubon’s overnight camp.

The counselors are also amazing. They’re really nice and I feel like I can trust them because I’ve known most of them for years, including Rebecca, Kim, and Zimmie. To me, a “nature hero” is somebody that’s passionate about nature and excited to learn, and that’s what the camp counselors are like.

This past summer was my first year as an LIT (Leader-in- Training), and it was so fun. I loved working with the Owls (the youngest camper group). They’re really cute. I got to read stories to them and take them on nature walks. I hope that they had fun, too, and learned to love and respect nature, each other, and the counselors, like I do.

In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email [email protected] to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 

Anne Monnelly Carroll Canoeing at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

In Your Words: Anne Monnelly Carroll

In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email [email protected] to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue!

Anne Monnelly Carroll Canoeing at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

Anne Monnelly Carroll Canoeing with day campers at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary circa 1992

Mass Audubon’s Wildwood was the first overnight camp I attended. I was quite homesick at the start, but as the week progressed, I had several experiences that were transformative. One morning we woke before dawn and hiked Mount Wachusett to see the sunrise. I remember the lavender pre-dawn light and how exciting it was to be up before the sun. When we got off the mountain, it was hot and we were tired, but the best was yet to come.

The counselors brought us to a nearby bog, talking excitedly about a special ceremony, a sort of rite of passage to become “one with nature.” We walked along a boardwalk until we got to a spot where the water was deep and clear, and we completely immersed ourselves in the bog water. I can’t explain what made it so magical, but it clearly made an impression on me that has lasted all these years.

Water has always played a central role in my life. My first water adventures were with my parents in the Ozarks, where they would take me as a newborn down the Current River in a canoe, stopping to camp on gravel bars. In fact, many of my childhood family vacations took place outdoors: we hiked, canoed, camped, birdwatched, and snorkeled.

Looking back, I believe that day in the bog was so special in large part because of the Wildwood counselors. Their excitement and love of nature was infectious. I clearly caught the bug because years later, during summers off from college, I became a counselor myself at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary’s Nature Camp in Topsfield. There, Sanctuary Director Carol Decker became a mentor who showed me how to share the magic and wonder of nature with children.

As a result of these experiences, I have focused my career on protecting water—and my volunteer work on connecting children to the outdoors. My parents planted these seeds, and Mass Audubon nurtured their growth with its wonderful staff, programs, and wildlife sanctuaries. And I hope that I am doing the same for future generations.

Anne Monnelly Carroll is Director of the Office of Water Resources at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Bee-hind This Year’s Camp Patch

Every year, campers at Mass Audubon’s 18 day camps and Wildwood, our overnight camp, receive a patch at the end of their session. These patches have featured everything from fireflies to fiddlehead ferns.

The last six years of camp patches.

This year’s patch shines a light on bees, but not just any bee. It’s the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis). This important pollinator that officially landed on America’s endangered species list. It’s the first time in our nation’s history that a bee species is under federal protection.

As recently as 30 years ago, this bumblebee was commonly found in a variety of habitats including prairies, woodlands, marshes, agricultural landscapes, and residential parks and gardens. Their precipitous decline started in the mid-1990s, and today they are very rarely found anywhere.

What happened to this once common bumblebee? Scientists cite a combination of impacts:

  • introduced pathogens from contact with commercial bee colonies
  • “neonicotinoid” insecticides (used widely on farms and in urban landscapes) that are absorbed by plants and can be present in pollen and nectar, making them toxic to bees
  • habitat loss and degradation

At Mass Audubon, we’re protecting and maintaining old field habitats and designing pollinator gardens to support these bees and many other pollinators that live in the Commonwealth.

We’re also supporting state legislation, An Act to Protect Pollinator Habitat (S.451/H.2926), establishing a commission to improve pollinator health by increasing and enhancing native pollinator habitat, as well as other legislation to reduce pesticide use and establish official guidance for pollinator forage.

Take Action!

Want to help the rusty patched bumble bee and other pollinators?

Summer Camp 2014 Highlights

Before we say an official goodbye to summer 2014, here’s a look back at some highlights from our camps across the state—and beyond!

New Programs

Many camps offered new programs that brought campers closer to nature in exciting ways.

Stony Brook trip camp

  • Stony Brook Nature Day Camp in Norfolk offered its first Adventure Camp for teens, which travelled to Douglas State Forest, Purgatory Chasm State Reservation, The Bog and Poutwater Pond & Barre Falls Dam, Quabbin Reservoir, a fish hatchery, and Mt. Watatic allover the course of one week.
  • An enthusiastic group of high schoolers launched the first digital Environmental Education Project, known as DEEP, at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. Merging the technical world with the natural world, campers became virtual land planners, set up wildlife cameras on Boyce Field, and even programmed a mobile adventure game that was tested (and approved!) by younger Drumlin Farm campers!
  • Wildwood offered a new and well-loved Discovery Group activity called “Spider Army,” during which overnight campers searched for and identified insects and arachnids to aid “mad scientist” counselors in inevitable world domination.

Science Exploration

Don’t tell the campers, but science learning is at the heart of all of our programs!

  • Middle-schoolers at the North River Nature Camp in Marshfield built their own microscopes and plankton nets, and used them to explore ”invisible” ocean critters.
  • Wilderness campers at Wachusett Meadow Day Camp in Princeton harvested tall grass and wove it into a 25 foot rope. They tested the strength of their rope with a few rounds of tug-of-war and also discovered that, when used as a swing, it could hold two teenagers!

Wildlife Sightings

Campers discovered all kinds of wildlife wonders during their nature explorations.

Moose Hill bone ID

  • On a field trip to Cape Cod’s South Beach, Wellfleet Bay Natural History Camp-goers found horseshoe crabs, live quahogs, razor clams, shorebirds, and seals. They loved the experience of being on an “island” and feeling as though they were discovering uncharted territory.
  • Moose Hill campers in Sharon discovered a mammal skeleton during a walk through the woods. Using their natural history science knowledge and some team work, they determined it belonged to a raccoon.

Service Projects

Many of our summer programs incorporate stewardship projects to demonstrate to campers that they are capable of making substantial improvements for our environment.

  • Camper Care Crews at Moose Hill Camp kept the sanctuary up to snuff by turning the compost pile, filling the bird feeders, and weeding the garden.
  • Campers at Broad Meadow Brook Summer Day Camp in Worcester came up with a way to give back with a favorite camp activity—making friendship bracelets! Some campers donated their bracelets to the gift shop, where they are sold for $1−$2 each to support the sanctuary’s Camp Scholarship Fund. So far the bracelets have raised $38 to help future campers!

Art and Nature—the Perfect Combination

Arts and crafts are a favorite activity of any summer camp, and ours are no exception.

MABA dana_instruction_group_ceramics

  • Arcadia Nature Day Camp in Easthampton and Northampton offered a new Nature Photography program, bringing nature together with art to celebrate the beauty of the natural world.
  • Wild at Art campers at the Museum of American Bird Art loved having the chance to work with professional artist and instructor Dana Schildkraut during pottery and clay weeks. Dana helped them experiment with nature treasures to create textures and patterns on their sculptures.

While every camp had unique adventures this summer, they all agree that everyday had campers feeling like this:

Today is the best day ever

It’s never too early to start planning for next summer. Check out all 17 day camps and our overnight camp at Wildwood online, and look out for camp registration starting early January!

18 Camps, One Important Accreditation

campcounselorsAmanda Zoellner, who works at Wildwood, Mass Audubon’s overnight camp in Rindge, New Hampshire, sheds light on the importance of a summer camp being accredited by the American Camp Association.

What do camp directors do in the winter? Most Mass Audubon camp directors coordinate and teach other sanctuary programs during the school year, but they also spend significant time preparing for the upcoming camp season—including maintaining their camps’ American Camp Association (ACA) accreditation.

All 18 Mass Audubon summer camps are ACA-accredited (that includes day camps and our overnight camp, Wildwood). Accreditation helps our camps reach a higher level, beyond the minimums required by state licensing. Accredited camps uphold up to 300 standards for camp operation, program quality, and the health and safety of campers and staff. For a large organization like Mass Audubon, the standards help ensure consistency among our diverse camps—each has unique attributes, but all adhere to the same standards.

ACA accreditation is a valuable tool to assist camp directors in thinking critically about our programs, continually refining our policies and procedures to ensure smooth, safe operations, as well as quality camp experiences for campers and staff. The ACA standards are updated regularly as the best practices for camp operations evolve, and camp directors are guided by the standards as they plan programs for the upcoming summer, hire staff, and participate in professional development.

Every three years, each accredited camp hosts an accreditation visit. After reviewing the camp’s written materials before the summer begins, a team of ACA-trained visitors spends a day at camp to observe the program in action. A camp’s accreditation visit is an exciting day for camp staff and for its ACA visitors. The visitors verify that the camp is upholding its standards and following appropriate policies and procedures, but it’s also a welcome opportunity for our camp staff to introduce others to the programs we are proud of, and to learn from our peers in the camp professional community.

I’ve volunteered as an ACA accreditation visitor since I was trained in 2007 and have visited several camps each summer since. Several other Mass Audubon camp professionals are also trained as visitors, and we agree that accreditation is a worthwhile process, for visitors as well as for the camps being visited. I have never visited a camp without learning about something I can take back to my own camp—and when you love camp like I do, it’s just plain fun to see other camps! When it’s my camp’s turn to have an ACA visit, I am always proud to share the programs at my camp.

Learn more online about ACA accreditation, or speak with the camp director at your nearest Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary!

Lazy, Hazy Days of Camp

These are the first weeks of summer camp at many of our wildlife sanctuaries.

Seeing all the campers with their lunches in tow, I can’t help but remember my own summer camp experience. Growing up in Maine, I was no stranger to the woods and, to me, camp was an extension of the woods at the end of our street—a place to run and play, build forts, dig in the mud, and eat plenty of blueberries. Whether the kids who come to our camps have spent tons of time in the woods, or are kids for whom nature is new, I’m jealous of their hours outside and the treasures they are about to discover.

Where else can you create and eat edible dirt, make goop, run, yell, get dirty, and hang around with some the coolest people you’ve ever met? While campers quickly learn that counselors are to be listened to, they are also not quite “adults” in the eyes of the campers, they are much, much cooler! And they are also the only people I know able to rival the campers in energy level. If you’ve seen the counselors in action, you know how much they do over the course of a day and how high their enthusiasm and energy level is.

Visiting camps is part of the job for me—a part I love—and what I get to see is amazing. Camp is a place where both kids and counselors can be themselves. I’ve had staff tell me that this was the first time that they’ve found a place where their love for nature was appreciated and shared, and not made fun of. I’ve seen kids who were terrified of bugs competing with other kids to catch the most dragonflies. I’ve also met many, many kids whose knowledge of critters not only surpasses mine, but I think some of our teacher-naturalists’ too!

And when I meet campers like this one—proudly showing off his camp patches and telling me how many years he’s been at camp and how much he loves it—I am proud to part of an organization providing these kinds of experiences for thousands of campers each summer.

Have you or your kids gone to a Mass Audubon camp? Share your experiences with us in the comments section!

For more information about our network of 18 day camps and our overnight camp Wildwood, visit our website. There are still spaces available at some of our day camps across the state and at Wildwood.