Campers harvest vegetables at Raynor Farm.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Brown
Summer camps are supposed to be about campfires, arts and crafts, swimming and buddy checks, and perhaps some archery or horseback riding—right?
Green Adventure Camp
, housed at
Lakewood Elementary School
on Ann Arbor’s West Side. This camp aims to combine fun with lots of learning about the environment.
Green Adventure Camp “teaches kids how to be green, teaches their families how to be green, and creates environmental ambassadors,” said camp director Ryan Brown.
Green Adventure Camp, which is being offered for the third year by
is an academic enrichment camp that is designed “to engage students and to combat summer learning loss,” Brown said. Ann Arbor Public Schools Community Education and Recreation,
The camp's program is divided up into two-week themes with titles like “Where our wild things are,” and “Caring for the Globe." Within those, Brown said, there are two weeklong sessions with related topics. The "Caring for the Globe" session includes the “Growing Green” and “The Secret Life of Trash” topics.
The daily program is broken up into two parts: a lesson in the morning taught by certified teachers and a field trip in the afternoon led by camp counselors and two naturalists from
Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Students are taught lessons such as how to look at food labels for ingredients and how to find out where their food comes from. Those lessons were followed by a field trip to Kroger where campers completed charts comparing certain food items, Brown said.
“I like (camp) a lot because we have academic time in the morning,” said 10-year-old Kern Chepeha of Ann Arbor. “I like learning new things."
This year, the camp set a zero-waste goal for lunch and snacks, Brown said. Since camp opened this summer, the students and staff have weighed their compost, trash, and recycling and charted the data. In the “Secret Life of Trash” week, “campers will look at the data and calculate an average of waste per camper per day,” Brown said.
Brown said that the curriculum for the camp was developed by the teachers and naturalists. Dave Szczygiel, an environmental education consultant for AAPS, said he was asked by the district to develop the summer program.
“This program supplements the Michigan standards but is not necessarily tied to them,” said Szczygiel, who was previously a science teacher at Forsythe and Clague middle schools in Ann Arbor. “It is an extension of the environmental education program."
Szczygiel said the teachers and the naturalists get together once a week to update lessons and curriculum.
Green Adventure Camp isn't entirely about academics, however.
“We are reconnecting kids with nature,” Brown said. “So much (of their) time is spent in front of screens or in buildings."
One of the components that is consistent throughout all the different themes of the camp is the cooperative farm on Richard Raynor’s family farm east of Ann Arbor off Frains Lake Road.
The farm serves as "an outdoor classroom,” Szczygiel said, where campers get to see where their food comes from and see what a farmer actually does.
Volunteers are responsible for getting the farm going in the spring. The campers take over during the first week of camp. Early tasks had campers planting and laying some irrigation pipes. They also weeded, cultivated, and collected rocks out of the crops. Later, students harvested the crops.
“For campers who come for several weeks, they can see the fruits of their labor,” said John Fahy, a naturalist with AAPS.
Corn, potatoes, melons, peppers, tomatoes, several varieties of lettuce, pumpkins, peas, beans, and buckwheat are grown on the farm. Brown said much of the food is used by the camp for snacks and lunches. It is also used in teaching. During one morning lesson in July, campers made their own salsa with produce solely from the
Another important aspect of the farm is the honeybee hives. Campers last year built the hives and tend to them this year harvesting the honey. The students dress in bee suits complete with hats and veils and inspect the hives each week.
Some of the farm's produce is given away to campers' families, and last year 115 pounds were donated to Food Gatherers. Brown said that was with only a one-acre garden compared to this year’s three-acre spread.
Additionally, the camp, in cooperation with Raynor, opened a farm stand at the intersection of Ford and Frains Lake roads.
Richard Raynor, 66, stands in the field of buckwheat planted by Green Adventure campers on his family farm.
Wendy Ochoa | Contributor
Richard Raynor's farm grew berries and prospered in the u-pick business during the '70s and '80s. Currently it is used to grow the peppers for
Clancy’s Fancy Hot Sauce, of which Raynor is an owner. The farm is used periodically by AAPS for winter survival classes, as well.
Like any traditional summer camp, Green Adventure does have a goal of having fun, said Brown—but they aim to combine fun with learning. As part of the “H2Oh-My” session, students canoed down the Huron River in conjunction with learning about it, for example. The following day they traveled to Lake Erie to do beach cleanup as a field trip to support the clean water lesson.
The canoeing was a favorite activity of many campers.
“I liked the canoeing best and learning English,” said 10-year-old James Kang, who is from Seoul, South Korea, and is visiting family in Ann Arbor for the summer.
Click here for more information about Green Adventure Camp.
Wendy Ochoa is a journalism student at Washtenaw Community College where she writes for the Washtenaw Voice and a summer intern on the Community Team. She is also an English teacher at Plymouth High School. E-mail her with news and events in Ann Arbor's West Side.