One of the biggest benefits to children attending summer camp is the opportunity for them to explore and develop a connection to the natural world. In a world of video games and computer screens, it seems kids are spending less time outdoors. Fortunately, most camps are located right in the middle of nature far from the urban comforts that keep kids indoors.
You already have your basic camp activities: canoeing, archery, obstacle courses and maybe even horseback riding. Here are some simple games and activities you can include in your programming to help kids get closer to their natural environment.
We played this game at an ACA Annual Conference a few years ago and it was very effective. Each participant wears a blindfold and gets a paper and pen. Then each participant is led to a spot outside, maybe leaning or sitting next to a tree, spread out from other campers in the group. Then remove the blind fold.
Working in silence, each camper must draw what is heard in the environment around them, placing each drawing in the general direction they heard it in, using the centre of the page as their own location.
After 10-15 minutes, the campers take off the blind folds and gather in a group to share the sound map they created. You can get more creative by having them create a larger sound map, not blind folded, using markers and paint.
Natural Colour Hunt
Divide your camper group into teams of 4 or 5, give each a couple of paint swatch cards and instruct them to find natural objects around camp that matches all the colours on their cards. You can pick up paint swatch cards for free at your local hardware or paint store. You can finish the activity in two ways:
- Have the kids rip off and leave a part of the paint swatch with the natural item (so they aren’t hauling rocks and trees all over property) and then each group takes turns leading the others around camp to see their items.
- Have the campers bring back a little piece of each of the natural items to display with their paint swatches and have a little show and tell.
You can finish off with a discussion about the diversity, beauty and life found in the rich eco-system that is the natural world around camp!
Find Yourself in Nature
Send the campers as individuals into the woods or a natural area at camp to find an item in nature that they feel best represents them. It can be something they think relates to their personality, something that reminds them of something important, etc. After 10-20 minutes call everyone in, have them form a circle and take turns sharing their findings and how it relates to them.
Nature Slideshow – Good for Teens
This activity requires cell phone cameras, which for some camps is a no-no, and others okay with restrictions. If your camp doesn’t rule out cell phones in your policy, this activity is a fun way to integrate technology teens use every day with natural discovery. Note it will only work if you have reception at your camp.
Divide your group into pairs with each pair having a cell phone camera. Create an email and make sure each pair has it with them. Each pair will go into their natural surroundings and take photos based on a specific subject they are assigned. Example subjects include: plant life, water front, found on the ground, up in the sky, etc) Each group will take 5 photos of their subject, emailing them to the instructor as they go.
Meanwhile, the instructor is receiving the photos and creating a slideshow with the images for the whole group to enjoy when they return. You can have the presentation be narrated by the group that took the photos or just add music to the slideshow and open up a group discussion afterwards.
For more ideas on fun games that help kids connect with nature, check out the Ultimate Camp Resource Nature Games page.