This year the Rappahannock Nature Camp, founded and run by Lyt Wood of Sperryville, will celebrate its 30th early-summer session on the banks of the Hazel River — that is, if a new sponsor can be found.
The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) recently announced it would be discontinuing support of its regional nature-study camp program. According to Lyt: “My very sincere thanks to PEC for their support of the camp for the past 29 years. It is a different world now, and running a children’s camp is much more complicated than in the ’80s when they started the camp program. It is entirely understandable that PEC has chosen to focus its resources elsewhere — there is much very urgent conservation work to be done in their nine-county region.”
The nature camp is a two-week summer camp for 8- to 12-year-olds (and this year, possibly an additional camp for ages 12 and older, including adults). Over the years, as many as four staff members and many local residents’ contributions helped ensure its success.
In a 2011 Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP) newsletter, Lyt summarized the camp’s mission: “To allow children to discover for themselves the wonder and the beauty of the natural world, and to understand what it means to be part of a community of living things.” In turn, he says, the concepts of “conservation” and “environment” will be understood and appreciated.
Rappahannock’s diverse ecosystem lends itself perfectly to a child’s learning, imagination and creative outflow, as seen in the annual newsletter put out by campers. Learning about crawfish, ponds and rivers, waterfalls, types of bees and birds, turtles and all manner of creatures (including the mystical “puckwudgies,” gnomes who love to smell pineapple and play tricks on people, courtesy of Lyt’s charming imagination).
Children observe, for example, dragonflies that eat 10,000 gnats in a single day; observe the American kestrel, a tiny delicate falcon; and learn to walk like coyotes (to quietly and unobtrusively watch nature perform its magic). Many local residents who’ve attended the camp now send their children. As one parent wrote: “I think you know just how we feel about what you provide for students every summer. It is an incredible learning experience blending of science, environmental issues, creativity, lessons in cooperation and a little bit of magic. It takes a child away from the television and computer and shows them the wonders of the natural world. It has proven to be a life-changer for many.”
Good luck Lyt, in finding a new sponsor to keep this unique summer camp alive and well in Rappahannock.
The nature camps are tentatively scheduled for June 15-26 (ages 8-12) and June 29-July 3 (12 and older, including adults for the first time. For more information, call Lyt Wood at 540-987-9530.