By Madlyn Bynum
Special to the Rappahannock News
This year marks the thirty-fourth season of Rappahannock Nature Camp. From its beginning, the mission of this popular day camp has remained unchanged: to nurture the joy and wonder of observing and discovering the natural world. These eye-opening experiences are what keep many campers coming back, year after year.
How is this lofty mission pursued? Well, whether campers are choosing and arranging their personal quiet spots for daily observation, or learning to identify butterflies, moths, snakes, birds, flowers, ferns, fungi, or trees, they are almost always outdoors — immersed in nature. They also hike, sing songs, assess water quality, play games, camp out for a night, and produce a camp newspaper. The fresh drawings and knowledgeable commentary in past editions of “News from Singing Creek” leave no doubt that this is the work of observant young naturalists.
In processing these varied experiences, campers are gently guided to consider what it means to be part of the wonderfully diverse community of living creatures that inhabit our planet. Through such considerations, future environmentalists are born.
Rapp Nature Camp, until recently, has meant one thing — a fun, 2-week summer day-camp for kids between the ages of 8 and 12, but last year two exciting new offerings were added.
The first is a 2-week teen camp, aimed at more mature campers from ages 12 through 17. With the introduction of the teen session, a camper’s 12th birthday no longer need mark the end of the Rapp Nature Camp summer ritual. While experiential learning continues to be central, teen campers are encouraged to follow up in more scientific, in-depth ways on their discoveries or on an aspect of nature that particularly intrigues them. Then, toward the end of the session, campers share with their peers what they’ve learned in their personal pursuits. This gives everyone the opportunity to try out the two complementary roles of investigator and teacher.
In case you were wondering, yes — twelve-year-olds have the unique opportunity to attend both nature camps!
The second new offering was inspired by adults — parents, grandparents, and adult friends of campers — who, over the years, have regarded the camp experience with longing. They’ve been telling Lyt Wood, Rapp Nature Camp director, that they wished he’d offer a nature camp for grown-ups. And, in 2018, he did. It’s a series of nature outings for those 18 and older, who are dubbed, “Perennial Campers.” One camper wrote that the paddle last spring on the south branch of the Shenandoah River was like “paddling through a National Geographic special with a personal guide!” Field trips might focus on spotting and identifying birds, dragonflies, trees, butterflies, fungi, or clouds. Other topics may be suggested by campers themselves at the Perennial Campers Orientation on March 3. Check the Events column of this newspaper in upcoming weeks for time and place.
To register for either day camp, you need a registration form. Go to https://rappnaturecamp.org/, where you can download one to complete and mail in. Alternatively, call Lyt Wood at (540) 987-9530 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The good news is that, whatever your age this year, there’s a Rapp Nature Camp that’s right for you!