I was back at High Park EcoCamp for my fourth summer, and what a fun one it was! Yes, there are moments where I’m not sure how I feel about being a 30-year-old camp counselor… But the programme is such a great combination of my interests and current career goals, and it works out well with my schedule for the rest of the year.
We had another amazing staff crew this year. We had some repeating staff from last year, some staff returning from a few years back, and some wonderful new staff. We all come to this with different experiences, interests and knowledge, but with a common goal: to get kids outside, loving nature, and tasting new veggies! It’s amazing to learn from and with each other, and from the kids as well. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with each and every staff member at EcoCamp this summer! I’m also glad that I got to switch things up again between the different age groups. Out of my seven weeks at camp, I worked for 5 of those with the Junior group (6-9 year-olds) and 2 weeks with the Sprouts (4-5 year-olds). It’s really great to get that mix of experiences throughout the summer. Though the Juniors are definitely my comfort-zone in terms of age of kids I’m most used to working with, it was great to get two weeks of Sprout camp in this year and get more used to working with those little munchkins too. So much fun!
As I mentioned, High Park EcoCamp combines many of my interests into one job. We spend lots of time exploring High Park, going on nature hikes, looking under logs, building “habitat forts”, reading and telling stories, finding snails and cicadas, playing nature and environment-themed games, and asking questions about the world around us. We also spend lots of time in the High Park Children’s Garden, where we water the plants, go on bug hunts, have scavenger hunts, learn about worms and composting, read more stories, do some crafts, and harvest lots of tasty treats. As I wrote about last year, we’ve also now got a wonderful kitchen where we can cook up the food we’ve harvested from the garden, with the kids. Our programme’s website has lots of fun pictures from the summer.
I took some pictures of some of the summer’s highlights, so here comes a little slideshow of my summer at EcoCamp:
One story that there is a picture of but that requires a bit more telling than what the picture shows is that of the baby robin. We were out hiking one Monday morning with the Junior group, and there was a bit more rowdiness than usual for a Monday morning, so one of my co-counselors decided to nip things in the bud and have a chat with the kids about appropriate behaviour on hikes. He had finally gotten the campers into a circle and almost listening, when this baby robin hopped into our circle and wouldn’t leave. We tried opening up the circle, thinking it was scared and couldn’t find its way out, but it still stuck around. It was hard to keep the kids back (especially with the bird itself being so fearless), but we did manage to keep everyone from touching it or getting too too close. The bird was pretty loud and hopping around sort of scattered, but it was clearly trying to tell us something… we just never figured out what. After a little bit of time hanging out with the bird and asking some questions about what may have led to its behaviour, we safely got the kids away from the robin and walking along the path again. Even then, the baby robin kept following us for a while. Strange. (And needless to say, that chat with the kids had to wait until later…) In any case, an interesting experience that none of us had had before.
Another thing you might notice from my pictures is the ridiculous amount of cicada photos. These are a recurring theme throughout the summer, especially in August, when they really come out in full force. The kids are amazing at finding them, and seeing the kids’ fascination with them really brings us back into kid-mode, where so many discoveries are new and exciting. But yes, TONS of cicadas in the park – one week, our group of campers started counting, and got to over 200 in a week! So yes, there are lots of cicada pictures, but those are significantly edited down from what I had taken over the summer.
We also started a fun new EcoCamp tradition this year. We started having Friday afternoon whole-camp “campfires”. We can’t actually have fires in the park, but the youth group from week 2 made a lovely papier mâché “campfire” that we gathered around each Friday afternoon. It was really nice to get the whole camp (Sprouts, Juniors and Youth together and feel like a unified camp). We would usually start the campfire with a fire lighting song, during which one of the counselors would add some yellow tissue paper to the “fire” to “light” it. We then usually had each group perform a song or skit which they had learned or created during the week. And then we would end with some fun whole-camp songs. This was a great way to wrap up our week and to add more singing to camp, not only during campfire time, but throughout the whole week as we ramped up for the campfire. A tradition I hope we continue in years to come.
Another wonderful EcoCamp summer…
Happy growing (and harvesting)!