The Planting Fields Arboretum’s four-week summer camp is now in session for the first time. Completely outdoors, every week is different, as children explore different areas within the 400-acre property.
The Waldorf-based curriculum that the camp utilizes allows campers to learn through experience. “It’s really a very exciting curriculum for the kids,” Gina Wouters, executive director at Planting Fields, said. “It’s very nature centered. It’s all about following the natural rhythms of the season.”
Children spend their mornings doing an activity and the afternoons at Orkestai Farms. “Kids get dirty, they play, it’s a little bit free flow and it allows each individual child to do what works for them,” Wouters explained.
There are a variety of activities to allow children to connect with nature in a different way. And each takes place in a different space throughout the Planting Fields. Campers experience the bird sanctuary, greenhouses, heather gardens, and so many other areas. “Each offers its own unique experience,” Erica Milone, camp coordinator, explained.
The activities can span from dying yarn by using beets to creating a bird feeder. Campers gathered pinecones and then used yarn, bird food and peanut butter to create a homemade bird feeder.
Wouters said she’s hoping that the camp will be offered again in future and that it will become an even larger program.
The camp was introduced to create a stronger relationship between the community and the Planting Fields. It’s educational, and creates a strong relationship between Planting Fields and the campers. The hope is that the children will return year round.
“There is so much to do here,” Wouters said. “There are the greenhouses, the trails — there are like 6 miles of trails here — the bird sanctuary, the meadows, plant species, landscape designs. Planting Fields offers a lot.”
Planting Fields summer camp has a goal — to change the relationship between people and the earth starting with children. “It is very important to build an understanding, respect, and appreciation for nature,” Russo said. “That’s something that we really want them to have, an appreciation for life.”
The counselors intend to create lesson about respecting the earth and nature that the children will take with them after they finish the camp.
“There is a deep connection (with nature) that they foster from a young age that will travel with them for their whole life,” Milone explained. “There is this deep connection with nature that they will carry into adulthood and then start caring for the world.”
The camp strives to educate the campers about nature while also incorporating many different subjects.
“We want some educational programs that are really multi subject based,” Russo explained. “We want to tie everything together, for example, having something that is science based and tie in English or another subject as well.”
The children are learning in a manner that allows them to be engaged and be outdoors.
“The sky is the limit. We have these grand plans and the opportunity to come here and do it is just so amazing,” Milone said.