By Freddy Carruth, Phase II Fellow
This summer Project GROWS held its first ever full week summer camp! This was a cool project that gave me some great experience planning, coordinating, and even participating as a counselor.
We had 23 campers sign up for our Little GROWers Summer Camp and five camp workers came to help each day for the whole week. You could tell how much work and detail went into this camp by how smoothly each day went. It really showed Project GROWS team’s commitment to making the camp a success in its first year.
There always things that can be improved or changed for the future, but for now, I want to describe a single day at Little GROWers Summer Camp from my perspective.
I arrived on the farm around 7:30 am to start setting up for camp. First things first, camp director Nichole and I set up any pop-up tents needed for the day and washed the cooking materials to be used at the cooking station. After that, we continued on to set up the activity and educational stations, and soon, the other camp counselors arrived to help us finish any last preparations. When everything is in its place, all of the camp staff circled up to talk through the day and finalize logistics. Then, it was time for the kids to arrive. The first kids are dropped off around 8:45 am and head straight to work at the crafts tables until a little after 9 am, when it is time to start the first part of camp!
With all the campers accounted for, we split off into our groups (I was “Team Onion”) and circled up as a group before heading to our first station of the day. Team Onion’s first station was a cooking station, where we worked on making some delicious kale/chard smoothies. Our “Hulk Smoothie” included some orange juice, yogurt, strawberries, and bananas. I think it was one of our most successful recipes from the whole week. Every group made more smoothie than they could finish, so I ended up getting a delicious breakfast! Fortunately, I didn’t have to drink all the extra smoothies by myself and was able to save some for the other counselors.
Other stations on Tuesday included: flower dissection, potato harvesting, and flower transplanting. During the flower dissection activity, the campers pulled apart different flowers to learn about the different parts of the flower and their purpose for the plant. At the potato harvesting and flower transplanting stations, the campers observed how different plants can be from each other. After visiting these stations, it was time to take a break! We all gathered in the shade to enjoy some tasty watermelon as a snack.
Tuesday was a very hot day and everyone really enjoyed the time in the shade. So, we stayed in the shade to start our next unique activity: a butterfly release!
The day before, on Monday afternoon, I drove to a butterfly business that sells butterflies to release at events. We did a big build up to the event - talking about butterflies and their life cycles - before we revealed a butterfly cage with butterflies ready to be released! In pairs, the campers took turns holding their hands together so a butterfly could be set in their palms to walk on and fly away. The butterflies often flew off quickly, but sometimes they would crawl around on the campers’ hands long enough to take a picture. The release was a big highlight of the week and it went very well for both campers and staff alike.
By now, we had about one hour of camp left and everyone was getting very rowdy. It was the perfect time for a relay race! This wasn’t just any relay race though - we set up a farm relay race – and it thoroughly exhausted most of the Little GROWers!
By the end of the day, everyone was back at the crafts tables, playing with play dough, drawing with crayons, and waiting to be picked up from camp. After the last camper was picked up, our staff came together to debrief about the day and discuss what went well and what did not. After our debrief, we packed everything up.
Then, I started preparing for the next day.
Looking back at the whole week, a few of my favorite parts of camp included the butterfly release, yoga on the farm, and the water relay race. I really enjoyed being part of Team Onion and getting to know the campers’ interests in plants and food. Working with the campers for the whole week gave me a unique leadership opportunity that I had not had before. As part of this, I really got to know the campers and the learning opportunities they were interested in. It was quite the experience and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.