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Nature Area at Camp

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This is for those of you who have worked at the nature area at a boyscout camp.

What has worked at your area? Anything - nature trails, special program, ways of instructing merit badges, getting scouts excited about your area, best ways to train your staff on the badges, Leave No Trace Workshops, anything!

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I have worked at Camp Old Indian, but not in the Ecology Department, however I have taught merit badges in the Ecology Dept. during my free periods if they were short an instructor one week or so. We do have a nature trail set up which eventually leads to a nice waterfall and many other trails branch off/connect with the nature trail/waterfall trail. Many trees/plants/shrubs are named & labeled & have a descriptive paragraph a long the trail. The Nature Lodge comes equipped with numerous displays of non poisonous animals/reptiles/amphibians dead & alive as well as a lot of posters. The Scouts always look forward to building their rockets in Space Exploration MB. Do you guys offer that? If you want, I can give you the email address of last years and this years Ecology & Conservation Director and he can really tell you a lot. He is one excellent young man and knows his stuff and how to make it fun and exciting. Just reply back, and I will get his permission. Hope this helps you out.



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  • 2 weeks later...

A few general suggestions, then a few specific to the nature area:


-The attention span for boys is about 15 minutes; after that, you lose them. Plan your instruction in light of this fact. You should be moving around, doing new things, interrupting for a quick round of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, etc. Keep them active and constantly reset their attention spans.


-Know a bit of interesting peripheral information about your topic to spice things up. While the actual merit badge material might not be the most exciting stuff in the world, if you can intersperse that with information on, say, black holes (for Astronomy merit badge), the boys are more interested and this interest will usually carry over to the rest of the material.


-Always remember the adage that ends "Involve me and I learn." Don't do demonstrations, get them involved.


More specific to the nature area:

-Edible plant hikes

-Star bikes--with the high adventure department, a mountain-bike overnight to a good stargazing location.

-Edible Landfill and Edible Glacier (I'm sure you could find the instructions online).

-Bring in outside people. For instance, if you can find a raptor rehabilitation center or similar organization nearby, they often can do bang-up demonstrations with live birds, etc.


I'll write down some more specific suggestions for merit badges when I find the time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was just assistant director at Camp Hiawatha last year.

One big thing we did was to find ways to involve everybody. We had a parent sugjest that we "get the bear cubs in the water and looking for bugs". Needless to say, this would definately NOT be popular with very many uniform-washing cub moms. What we did was to get a big plastic kiddy pool and fill it with muck and water from the bog. They could get elbow deep in the muck and have a good time looking for water insects, but they couldn't really get too muddy. It also meant we didn't have to worry about lifeguards or buddy tags. We still had adult supervisors, but that was mostly to keep the pools from getting broken.


Sometimes scouts expect to be spoon fed when they are not familiar with a subject. I had a list of possible experiment ideas for the Energy merit badge, but I didn't give the proceedures. If somebody was stuck on how to demonstrate something they could see a few examples. They then had to come up with the proceedures and demonstrate to me the idea they were trying to communicate. Not exactly spoon feeding, but enough of a prompt to get them thinking.


We had a few nature trails that crisscrossed the camp. Unfortunately the land owner next to us had a part of his property clear cut. He had given us permission, and we had built a nature trail across the corner many years ago. We spent most of the summer sending crews down this trail and hauling out short lengths of brush to make the trail visible again.


We had rubber knee boots available for people to wear in our beaver pond. We also had many hand nets available for catching things. We had about 6 aquariums donated by various people. We had no electricity, so we couldn't keep fish for very long in the summer heat. We did keep turtles and frogs for a day or two, and garter snakes were pretty common too. The big trick is to release the animals before they get too stressed. We also had to make some collecting rules so that we didn't get fragile reptiles or mammals in. Still, many scouts had a ball chasing frogs through the mud when they had nothing else to do.


We also had jars of alcohol to embalm any dead specimines we got in. It was just gross enough to be totally fascinating to younger scouts. We wouldn't keep mangled or decayed samples. There are very few opportunities for scouts to see a real finch or robbin or giant beetle up close. This was just a way to preserve them in sealed jars for others to see later on. Creepy, but interesting.

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Thanks for the great ideas!

We do have the astronomy merit badge. It would be cool if we had the energy merit badge.

I'm learning a lot about nature stuff by reading some books on extinction and such.

Oh, willy, did you have a troop 889 at your camp this summer? They came to ours. They're one of those troops that goes to a new camp each year.

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I can't take all the credit for that. It was my first year as assistant, so a lot of those ideas came down from the vetran director. We sure did a lot of stuff in six weeks, and I think we couldn't have without all of the experience he has.


Good luck to you!

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