The forest behind St. John Fisher College’s south campus will transform into an environmental learning lab this summer because of a new partnership with EarthWorks Institute.
Through the collaboration, EarthWorks Institute will offer eight weeks of adventure summer camps at the college, offering school-aged children in Monroe County and beyond an opportunity to explore the outdoors in a safe way. The day camp is one of the few programs in the U.S. that encompass three of the American Camp Association’s pillars for an enriching camp experience, which include an intimacy with nature, authentic human connections and human-powered activities.
While exploring the woods, students will see the inhabitants living beneath its canopy, including deer, skunks, raccoons and flying squirrels, said Dr. Michael Boller, associate professor of biology and director of the college’s Center for Sustainability.
For Boller, the partnership brings to life the center’s mission of supporting the local community through service-learning and information education.
“Hosting EarthWorks is a way for us to provide a space for nature-based education that connects with a broad spectrum of Rochester’s youth,” said Boller. “It is allowing the college to give back in a new way.”
In addition to the outdoor skills and teambuilding lessons campers will experience, Fisher students will join them in activities that promote science, technology, engineering and math concepts, including conservation science and interpretive trail design and maintenance, said Lindsay Cray, executive director and co-founder of EarthWorks.
“Not only is everyone given the opportunity to learn from each other (staff and students alike), but this partnership directly contributes to community engagement in the field of environmental sustainability and fosters the development of relationships with a diversity of youth,” said Cray. “At EarthWorks, our goal for kids is to learn true life skills that will support intellectual and personal growth as well as a greater connection with land and community. Our partnership with Fisher meets that goal head on.”
Run by expert forest guides, EarthWorks will operate three separate day camps at Fisher throughout the summer.
Running Wild, ages 9-13, includes six sessions and focuses on teaching unique survival skills, including outdoor cooking and safety, fire building, wild sourcing of food and medicine and wildcrafting.
Weird Nature, ages 6-8, encourages campers to explore the ecological relationships that exist between all living things while fostering interactions with critters and crawlers like zombie snails and learning about “weird” plants in nature like glow-in-the-dark fungus.
Jedi Camp, ages 12-15, offers older students an opportunity to hone advanced wilderness skills including first-aid, using and handling of fire and building a primitive society.
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