Explore your summer

Summer day camps can be a natural fit for kids

Great Basin Naturalists campers and counselors begin the day with a game.

Great Basin Naturalists campers and counselors begin the day with a game.

Photo By amy beck

The Great Basin Naturalists Environmental Science camp is in session every week, Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through the week of Aug. 15. $195 per week. Eight full scholarships are available every week for eligible campers.

Galena Creek serves as a natural guide as a group of children make their way deeper into the forest. The sun peeks through the shading trees, lighting the way. It’s 9 a.m. on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, and the Great Basin Naturalists Environmental Science camp is in session. Camp leader Amanda Levy has led her group up the mountain trail and sent them on a mission to find and make an ancient tool used by Native Americans—the walking stick. After a few minutes of exploring, one young camper, Charlie, returns to the group, an oversized stick in hand. As he and the other children head back to the camp, Levy uses the activity to spring into the day’s lesson on the Washoe and Shoshone tribes.

The Great Basin Institute is offering kids ages 8-12 an opportunity to discover Galena Creek Park and learn about a wide variety of environmental themes over the course of 10 weeks. Each week, the camp offers a new lesson plan, giving parents and children the option to sign up for individual weeks instead of the entire program. Sessions started June 13, but registration is open until the final week, Aug. 15. Off Mount Rose Highway, Galena Creek Regional Park offers access to the alpine, high desert, riparian and aquatic habitats unique to the area.

A dedicated and passionate group of recent college graduates work as counselors for the day camp and tie in lessons related to the habitat and history of the region.

“We have a really fantastic staff this year,” said camp coordinator Deborah Seiler. “They all have experience working with kids, and many have backgrounds in environmental studies.”

Lessons are typically held during the first half of the day, from 9:30 a.m. to about noon, but their priority is making the experience enjoyable for the kids.

“We often do games or skits to make learning fun, which have been really successful,” said Levy. “We’ll take a simple activity, like looking for certain trees, and we’ll make it a challenge or scavenger hunt, so we’ll call them Tree Detectives, or Treetectives.”

By focusing on the environmental and historical issues of the region, kids learn about the various plants and animals in the park, as well as specific Native American tribes that inhabited the area.

“I learn something new every day,” said one 12-year-old camper, “but fishing is definitely my favorite part.”

“The kids want to learn,” said Levy. “A lot of them come with notebooks or their own guides of the forest, which is always very cool because it shows they’re ready to participate.”

In addition to the lessons, kids can participate in arts and crafts, and various sports like soccer or kickball later in the day.

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“Altogether, we probably hike at least three miles a day, but it’s spread out in the schedule so it’s never a chore to the kids,” said counselor Ethan Moskowitz. “Plus, we all get a chance to see something new each day.”

And every Friday, the camp takes a field trip to conclude the week’s theme. For example, during the themed week Ancient Secrets, the group visited the Nevada State Museum’s Egyptian exhibit.

“The thing I think everyone really appreciates about this camp is learning about their community and local history in ways that can make it fun and accessible, which you can’t always achieve in a classroom,” Seiler said.

From visual arts to theater to the outdoors, the Reno area offers tons of different day camps to entertain your kids and even teach them a thing or two. Here are a few:

Performing Arts Summer Camp at Bruka Theatre

Working theater professionals help students create public performances of their own adaptations of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Classes are designed to develop imagination, concentration, body and voice, technique, character, theatrical design, and appreciation of theater. For ages 8-16. Offered July 25-Aug. 5, weekdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $250 for two weeks. Register by contacting <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,98,111,120,111,102,102,105,99,101,98,114,117,107,97,64,103,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,34,62,98,111,120,111,102,102,105,99,101,98,114,117,107,97,64,103,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,60,47,97,62)) } </script>, or call 323-3221 by July 15. www.bruka.org.

Urban Roots Day Camp

This organization offers three different week-long day camps for toddlers to pre-teens who want to play in the garden. All camps are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sprout School Day Camp for ages 3-5 will be offered July 18-22. The Garden Club Day Camp is for ages 6-12 on July 18-22. And EcoArt+Gardening Day Camp for kids entering grades 1 through 3 will be Aug. 15-19. The camps, $150 per week, are offered by Urban Roots Garden Classrooms and held at River School Farm, 7777 White Fir St. Register at www.urgc.org/participate/day-camp-2011.

VSA Nevada Summer Art Camp

Kids ages 6-10 can experience art, creative movement and drama at these five-day camps from 9 a.m. to noon. Held Monday through Friday now through the week of Aug. 22. $85 per week. VSA Nevada, 250 Court St., 826-6100. Register and learn more at www.vsanevada.org.

Youth Backcountry Camp

This three-day, two-night program offers an opportunity for teens ages 14-17 to develop backcountry skills in the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe. They’ll learn about the natural history of the basin, outdoor leadership, teamwork, and participate in a service-learning project building part of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Offered July 24-26, July 28-30, and Aug. 14-16 through the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and Sierra Nevada Journeys. $150. Register at www.sierranevadajourneys.org. Learn more at www.tahoerimtrail.org, or call 298-0238.