Report on Summer Science Camp 2013

The euphoria of camp wears off quickly, but fortunately, almost magically (perhaps for the rest of our lives), anytime we wish we can close our eyes and instantly our minds flash through the images and sounds that make up our memories of camp. We smile, and for a moment, the euphoria returns.

23 Campers, 4 Staff, 2 10-day sessions, 21 Field Trips, 50/50 Girls/Boys, 50/50 Hawaii/Mainland, 1200 miles per session, 15 average age, 17 lava encounters, 3 pickup basketball games, 27 Rings of Saturn sightings

Our first Science Camp was held this summer on the Big Island of Hawaii and was very successful (more on that later). Here are some numbers from camp:

We had two great groups of good, smart, friendly kids which really made it possible for everyone, campers and staff, to have a great time and to achieve what we set out to do.

Land & Sea Science Camp group photo

Land & Sea Science Camp

Of course, calling something a success doesn’t make it so. You have to have criteria for the claim. Here is ours:

  • No one was lost or seriously hurt (seems basic, but you have to pay attention!)
  • Everyone was housed and fed (it was surprising how important this became!)
  • Campers had fun and bonded closely with each other (per surveys and interviews)
  • Everyone learned a lot of science (without homework or classes!)
  • Met or exceeded our science programming goals

Most importantly, we proved that an overnight camp can be a fantastic environment for teens to learn science in a hands-on, experiential way. One of the reasons I feel confident declaring camp a success is that at the end of each session, no one wanted to leave! The last day was very emotional: many tears, hugs, and sad good-byes. At once, everyone was suddenly realizing what a fantastic experience it had been and that, sadly, it was ending.

Air & Space Science Camp Group Picture

Air & Space Science Camp

I want to thank a number of people for their help in making Science Camp a success: our staff, Patty Halpin, science teacher and Toni Difante, counselor for their hard work, patience and for creating a fun, open and comfortable camp environment;  Julia Neal, Pahala Plantation Cottages, for taking such good care of us every day; The Edmund C. Olson Trust and Mrs. Zora Charles for the scholarships they provided; the many Big Island organizations and individuals that allowed us to visit; members of the Science Camps of America Board of Directors and Board of Advisors for their help and guidance in making camp a reality. Special thanks are added for my wife Sheri, who was officially the camp nurse, but unofficially just about everything else, and without whom, this camp would not have been possible.

Patty

Patty

Sheri

Sheri

Toni

Toni

Beyond Traditional Learning

To build long-lasting connections with the science we are learning each day, we have included activities at Science Camp that enrich the total experience.  Here is a look at how we are doing that.

Enrichment through Hawaiian Culture

hawaiian-music

Through Hawaiian language, art, culture, dance, music and history, our intent is to better understand the threads that link us to the past and to the future in this place. Many of the issues we face today – energy, sustainability, climate change, natural hazards, sea level change – were just as critical to the Hawaiians of old. Understanding the approach an island people used to deal with these issues can be related to finding the ways that our ‘island’ planet will do the same.

Enrichment through the Arts

Enrichment through the ArtsUsing photography, videography, art, drawing, music and dance is a powerful way to deepen the understanding of the environmental science that our campers will be studying. Visiting a volcano is a great learning experience, but how does it make you feel?  How can you share with others how you felt while hearing the harrowing story of a tsunami survivor? How does a photographer capture a feeling? We want our campers to find ways to express themselves and to share those expressions with others.  Our specialists will be helping our young scientists learn.

Enrichment through Nature

Enrichment through NatureAs human beings we are wired to connect with nature. Study after study shows that being outdoors is a benefit, no matter what activity it is. At camp we will almost always be outside.  What recharges you? Is it the beach? the ocean? walking through the forest? hiking in the desert? The Big Island offers so much variety, including volcanoes, mountains, forests, deserts and beaches, that we are going to have continuous chances to connect and re-connect with the great outdoors.

Enrichment through Camp Life

Enrichment through Camp LifeAttending camp has so many benefits for the intangibles that are so critical today: leadership, confidence, teamwork, to learn to fail and to try again, to help others, to expand one’s horizons.  These are what are called ’21st century skills’ but camps have been teaching these skills since the 1860’s. And, naturally, making new friends, exploring new places and having fun.

Here is how it comes together…

5 StepsWe hike from camp to the shoreline through a wild coastal plain of old lava flows, scrub brush and lowland forest. As we walk, we learn about the plants we are seeing, the climate that allows this environment, and the forces that created this coastline. When we reach the ancient Hawaiian trail known as The King’s Trail, we learn about what we are seeing and hear tales of myth and history as we continue our hike along the coast.  We find a remote cove where we can stop and have lunch, take videos and pictures or draw, study the topography of the land. We talk about explosive volcanism and what we are seeing around us, and then we look for and measure evidence of changes in sea level in the past. After hiking back, we work together to assemble a multimedia video about the day, including video clips, photos, music and voice-overs.  Before turning in for the night, we post the video on the Science Camp community website so our families and friends can log in and see what we did today.
5of75_Kiholo

Learn more at ScienceCampsAmerica.com.

kingstrail_kau

Courtesy of Ka’u Preservation

Conservation in Ka’u

Recently I was able to attend an ‘After Dark in the Park‘ event at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The speaker that evening was John Replogle of The Nature Conservancy’s Ka’u Preserve. The Ka’u Preserve is a very close neighbor to  Science Camp, and we are working on plans to include programs at the Ka’u Preserve this summer.

Ka'u Preserve

The Ka’u Preserve consists of four parcels of land adjacent to the Ka’u Forest Preserve, which is State-owned forest reserve lands. The Ka’u forest is the largest and most intact native forest in Hawaii. Many rare plants and birds still survive in this forest. The forest itself features ‘ōhi‘a and koa trees which provide a canopy for the lush native understory.

In his presentation, Mr. Replogle presented the goals of TNC (The Nature Conservancy) in the Ka’u Preserve, and discussed the various programs they are carrying out to achieve those goals.

Most of TNC’s efforts are focused on controlling feral animals and invasive plant species. Controlling the pigs and goats that are the forest’s biggest threat consists mostly of the very difficult work of putting up fencing through very dense forest undergrowth.

Once fences are in place, though, the effect is dramatic, as these images illustrate:

understory fence

This image illustrates how quickly the forest can recover once feral pigs have been fenced out.

This image, from the island of Molokai, shows the effect of a fence built to keep feral goats out.

This image shows the effect of a fence built to keep out feral goats on Molokai.

kamehame-nature-conservancy

Also just a short distance from camp is Kamekame Beach. TNC purchased this land in 2002 in order to protect the endangered Hawksbill Turtle (hanu`ea) for whom this beach is the single most important nesting site in the U.S.  Together with the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, TNC operates a volunteer turtle monitoring program to protect the nests from invasive predators such as rats and mongooses.

hawksbill_turtle

At Science Camp this summer, campers will have the chance to learn first-hand about the plants and animals that make up these habitats, about the methods used to protect them, about the scientists, environmentalists, naturalists, and volunteers who do this important work, and to participate in that work.

More Than Science

Sure, campers at Science Camp are going to learn a lot about science and of course they are going to have fun. But what else can be expected from the summer camp experience?

Camp is a venue for:_MG_5991

  • Inviting exploration and play
  • Providing physical and emotional support
  • Focusing on collaboration and teamwork
  • Trying new things
  • Teaching and valuing self-reliance and resourcefulness
  • Encouraging manageable risk
  • Facilitating relationships

In a nutshell, camp is an environment where young adults can really grow.  At the American Camp Association (ACA) Annual National Conference earlier this month, it was great to learn more of the ways that camp leaders can facilitate the experiences that contribute to this.

Planting trees

It is good to see that across the United States more and more school systems are starting to realize that schools, too, need to provide such an environment. An emphasis on test results is not the answer and is actually toxic to an environment that is trying to develop the character traits outlined above.

Professional educators are starting to understand that camp has been such an environment for over 150 years, and that camps, and camp leaders, have a lot to bring to the table.  And camps and camp leaders are starting to realize that they have a lot to offer. Unfortunately, camps have not been good at collecting and sharing data, and educational folks generally love lots and lots of data.  That is starting to change, thanks to efforts by the ACA, and a growing realization among camp leaders how important it is to have that data.

I believe that when camps start to provide data for studies that educators can read and respect, lights are going to go on. Educators will see the tools they need to help provide the right environment, and camps will see how important their work is to youth development and how important it is to expand the reach of camp.

plantingtree

Throw in some nature and you’ve got a winning recipe.

Registration for Science Camp is Open!

We are officially open! The Science Camps of America web site is now up and ready to help campers, parents and anyone who would like to help send teens to science camp. Take a look at http://ScienceCampsAmerica.com.

Science Camp Web Site

Science Camp will be held on the Big Island of Hawaii. The first session, Land and Sea, is from June 22-July 1, the second, Air and Space is from July 1-10. The camp will be hosted at Pahala Plantation Cottages. We have space for about 36 teens each session.

Here is some of what you can do on  the web site:

* Learn about our summer science camps for teens
* Register for camp
* Make a donation (thank you!)
* Apply for a job or volunteer
* Contact us about becoming a sponsor
* Learn how you can offer a scholarship
* Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and WordPress
* Enjoy the pictures
* Connect to this blog

 

New Science Camp Dates: June 22-July 10

“Land and Sea” Session Dates: June 22-July 1

“Air and Space” Session Dates: July 1-July 10 

Field Kit

Field Kit

We have had to change the dates for science camp but as it turns out, this is good! Since we will now be starting June 22nd instead of June 10th, more potential campers will be finished with school by the time the first session starts, and everyone should be done with school by the time the second session starts July 1st.

Stand-by as we are close to opening for business: website, online-registration, and ways you too can help!

Science Camp opens June 22, 2013!

 [Update: dates have changed. Camp open June 22nd]

We have a location, we have dates, and now, we have  a new logo!

Science Camps of America logo

Science Camps of America logo

The logo design was inspired from Hawaiian petroglyphs and was created by Jacob Wong (www.youplusmemakes.us). The symbols, or glyphs, represent (clockwise from upper left) space, air, land and sea.

The first session, Land and Sea, will be held June 10-19 [now June 22-July 1]. The second session, Air and Space, will be held June 19-28 [now July1-10].

Coming soon:

The Science Camps of America web site will be opening soon with all of the details and registration information. In the meantime, follow us here or on Facebook or Twitter.