by Cindy Verbeek

“They said they didn’t know day camp could be so much fun.”

This was the comment a parent shared with me when I asked them what their kids thought of the day camp run by A Rocha in Houston in July, 2019. With a generous grant from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation the Buck Creek Canfor Hatchery, A Rocha’s project in Houston, became full of happy screeches of 30 children exploring the natural world.

Each day started with songs, a reflection of the Creator’s goodness in creation and a puppet show where Sherry-lock Holmes interviewed various animals to help Mrs. Bush solve the mystery of where all the birds went. The children were then divided into age groups marked by their brightly colored Explore Outdoors! ball cap. The groups rotated between four stations – a craft, a game, an activity and a nature walk relating to that day’s creature group; Birds, Water Creatures, Mammals, Plants, and Insects. And of course, snack time included bird’s nests, worms in dirt, fish crackers and other nature inspired creations.

Based on A Rocha’s online Nature Exploration Program for children it was super easy to adapt it to our context and chose games that fit with what we were able to do. We built bat boxes, looked for creepy crawlies (aka aquatic invertebrates) in the creek and dashed through the field searching for “food” (poker chips) without being caught (tagged) by predators.

We were blessed with an amazing summer student, Hannah Groot, who helped develop and deliver the camp with enthusiasm and ease. And we could not have done it without our incredible volunteers (many of them parents of the children) who took time out of their busy schedules to care for a station, follow a group, take pictures, or make snacks.

The most memorable moment for me was when a little one slipped his hand into mine on day two and said “excuse me, how many weeks are we doing this?” I giggled and had to tell him that we were only doing it for another few days to which he replied “Awe. It’s so much fun.” This is what I live for.