August 2, 2012

Our Eco Skills Programming

Quatzy and Zumba here! We’re the Eco-skills staff for the summer camp, responsible for delivering environmental and nature based programming for residential and day campers. Quatzy’s been here for a couple of years since she graduated from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. She took Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism and Concurrent Education, along with some geography and natural science. Throughout the year she teaches outdoor education at Camp Kawartha while filling her spare time with travel, hikes and exploring nature. Zumba is entering the final year of her undergraduate degree at Trent University in Peterborough, taking courses in Environmental Studies, Biology and Indigenous Studies. She has previously worked for the YMCA Wanakita summer camp as the Wilderness and Environmental Educator, and the Petroglyphs Provincial Park as the Natural Heritage Educator. She’s very excited about her summer working at Camp Kawartha in the eco-skills program, and when she’s not at camp, she can be found travelling, hiking, gardening, and canoeing in Peterborough and the Kawarthas.

Since we both love the outdoors, we’ve been incredibly lucky to work with the great natural setting of Camp Kawartha set on the beautiful Clear Lake with 186 acres of woodlands and wetlands on ‘The Range’, adjacent to the camp. A visit to the range would start with a walk across the rock plateau which is imbedded with countless fossils of cephalopods and crinoids from the Silurian period (since before the dinosaurs!). After the plateau, there are several hikes to choose from including the yellow trail which is prime salamander and amphibian habitat within the maple, red oak and ironwood forests; or perhaps a hike along the blue trail which leads to the large wetlands and a boardwalk. Along the red trail there is an established encampment area with shelters made out of natural materials such as birch bark and a canvas tipi; these are ideal for practicing rustic fire building skills with flint and steel or making medicinal herbal teas from plants such eastern white cedar.
If you’re interested in food issues or learning about plants, Camp Kawartha is also home to a passive solar greenhouse and an organic vegetable and herb garden. The greenhouse contains a closed loop hydroponic system which uses a carp fish tank and algae pool to fertilize seedlings grown in the greenhouse. Just recently, we had a crop of fresh basil which was made into a delicious pesto sauce for an interest choice session, in which kids learned how to plant seedlings, pick the basil leaves, and prepare the ingredients and the recipe for making pesto. Other plants in the garden include tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, beets and cilantro. All of plants are grown without synthetic chemicals or the use of fossil fuels, and it supplies the camp kitchen with fresh local produce. Both the garden and the greenhouse provide hands-on opportunities for campers and staff to learn about how organic food is grown and enable them to interact closely with the soil, plants, insects and other living organisms.
Finally, every Eco-skills program is based through the Jack Frost center in Camp Kawartha. This room is home to several taxidermy animals, native to this region as well as interactive displays, games and educational posters on the local natural environment. Visitors to the Jack Frost center can touch and handle bird egg and animal skull replicas, make animal tracks in a sand box, play with wildlife themed puppets and observe terrariums filled with camouflaged insects. The Jack Frost center sets the stage for much of our environmental and nature based programming, and provides campers with a place to explore hands on with elements of wilderness. Some of our favourite things are when campers find and bring us interesting rocks, bones, fungi etc to place in the center!
So as you can see, the Eco-skills section at Camp Kawartha is a multi-dimensional program involving several aspects of nature based education for campers of all ages. Through our programming, we always make sure to emphasize the importance of environmental awareness and building a learning relationship with the earth and the other species which we share this land with. We’re constantly working on new programming and researching to learn more about the amazing natural environment we live in, so we just keep adding to our repertoire as the summer goes on. If you have any questions about the eco-skills programs, just come find either one of us and we’d love to attend to your curiosity. Happy exploring!