The Kenai Watershed Forum Summer Camp is taking it outside. Or even more outside.
Joseph Robertia is taking over as camp director and he said his goal is to have the campers, who range in age from 6 to 16, spend a lot more time away from Soldotna Creek Park than in the past.
“I’m hoping to have the kids outside a lot more often,” Robertia said. “The way I’ve got the camp designed, they’ll be outside at least half the time for three days a week, and all day two days a week.
“Almost all of those are off-site.”
The camps are for three age ranges. Those from ages 6 to 8 have sessions from June 11 to 15, June 25 to 29, July 9 to 13, and July 30 to Aug. 3. Those from ages 9 to 12 have sessions from June 18 to 22 and July 16 to 20. Those from ages 13 to 16 have a session from July 23 to 27.
All camp days are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., starting at Soldotna Creek Park. The Kenai Watershed Forum is a nonprofit working to ensure healthy watersheds on the Kenai Peninsula.
“What we’re hoping to do is get kids to interact more with the environment we have here,” Robertia said. “You can’t care about something if you don’t learn about it first.”
Robertia said there are a few reasons he is getting campers outside more.
“It’s a great classroom, reinforcing the concepts we’re trying to teach about wildlife, the wildlands of the watershed and how the whole ecosystem works,” Robertia said. “There’s a lot they can learn faster being more hands-on.
“They’re not just going to learn about nature, they’re going to experience nature.”
By learning about and experiencing the diverse ecology of the central Kenai Peninsula, Robertia said a simple walk in the woods becomes an arena to experience so much more.
“The stuff we have is pretty amazing if you take the time to listen and learn about it,” he said.
Campers get six avenues for learning:
• Science talks — Said Robertia: “Summer camp is not a science class, but we’ll do little science lessons.”
• Field trips — These will be to augment the science talks. For instance, frog collection will follow a talk on the amphibians. Birding will follow lessons on birds.
• Wildlife-themed games — Again, meant to augment the science. For instance, habitat fragmentation is a challenge for wood frogs, because they need to get to ponds to breed and lay eggs, but live in upland wooded areas the rest of the year. Robertia will lay out a grid for a type of dodgeball game, blocking off more and more of the grid so campers find out firsthand how much loss of habitat amps up danger.
• Guest speakers.• Hiking — Robertia has at least two hiking days planned for each session. Hikes will be on Skilak Loop Road, with Bear Mountain and Hidden Creek prime candidates because they are age appropriate. Hidden Creek is .65 miles one way, while Bear Mountain is just less than a mile and climbs 400 feet
“When I think back on summer camps, so much time was spent outdoors in the woods,” Robertia said. “By going over some of the plants, amphibians, birds and mammals, it’s brings it full circle to see those things and learn to identify and understand the ecology.”
The cost for the camp is $150 per camper, per session. Spaces are limited and scholarships are available. Registration is available at kenaiwatershed.org.