Nature Camp Inc. News

Field Trips, Classes, Dancin’ in the Street

By September 20, 2008 No Comments

From Afterglow #73 Sept 08:

A total of 328 campers attended Nature Camp this summer, the highest enrollment in nine years and an increase of 31 from 2007. More than two-thirds of the campers returned from last year. This summer also marked the first year on record (since 1972) in which attendance in each session exceeded that of the previous year. In addition Second and Third Sessions both had short waiting lists. Nearly one in ten campers hailed from Williamsburg (31 campers); other large concentrations came from Fredericksburg (22), Charlottesville (20) and Richmond (22). Sixtyeight campers received one or more scholarships from a garden club or other sponsoring organization, and an additional 49 benefited from tuition assistance directly from Nature Camp, Inc.

Guiding and nurturing these eager young charges was an exceptionally veteran staff led by co-assistant directors Chris Chamberlin and Louise Bowling. The counselors ranged in age from 18 to 25 (not including the ageless Amy Beaird, EMT, and Shirley Napps, office assistant) and comprised five individuals who never attended Nature Camp as campers. The University of Virginia once again provided the largest contingent, with no fewer than 11 staff members. Wahoos Lucas Gillenwater and Tucker Harris, our talented and inventive (and no longer neophytic) cooks, have greatly appreciated a new front-loading washer and drier set in the shed behind the kitchen. They also made frequent use of the bounty which our four garden beds produced: lettuce, peas, radishes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and carrots.

Classes included all the traditional favorites, as well as Larvotany (a class which Amy Beaird and Chris Chamberlin developed in 2007 and which examined insect larvae and their host plants), Darvolution, and Wild Art. Major classes took field trips to the Rockbridge County Landfill, the Montebello Fish Hatchery, and the site of the March forest fire near Vesuvius. Several noteworthy finds during and outside of class deserve mention. While serving as one of the botany instructors during First Session, I discovered a surprisingly large population of a state-rare plant (Pyrola elliptica, or Elliptic Shinleaf, a member of the heath family) along the path to Buttermilk Spring, and more recently counselors and campers found a fresh pile of bear scat and a possible carbonization fossil in Big Mary’s Creek.

Thanks to the assistance of Paul Cabe (who himself returned to Camp to discuss neotropical migratory birds and present some of his own research on the Acadian flycatcher), we were able to line up a number of outstanding evening program speakers, including Dr. Chuck Bailey (College of William and Mary; geology of faults and earthquakes in Virginia), Sarah Francisco (Southern Environmental Law Center), and Dr. Robert Humston (Washington and Lee University; biology of smallmouth bass). First Session we enjoyed an evening of dancing in the road to music performed on the Staff House porch by the Rivanna River Chiggers (a Charlottesville-based string band whose members include former Nature Camper Molly Cadieux). During Third Session Katie Hoffman Doman gave a musical evening program and left copies of her CD for sale at the canteen. — Flip Coulling, Director