Sustainability, Green River Preserve, and the Educational Benefits of Summer Camp: Part III

By Sandy Schenck

In the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors.  The average American boy or girls spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.   In a 2002 British study on children, it was found that children today can identify Pokémon characters better than they can a beetle, a tree, or an otter.  Campers at Green River Preserve daily explore the streams, mountains, and woodlands of the Preserve with trained naturalists.

Computers and TV screens only make a certain number of colors and will as time progresses promote color loss for our children.  Nature makes all colors.   Being out there improves distance vision and lowers the chance of color loss.   Exposure to environment- based educational programs significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills and improves the minds and bodies of our children.   (National Wildlife Federation study / American Camp Association 2011 study)

The Green River Preserve Farm provides organic produce and fresh eggs for our campers.  Few camps have farm to table programs that help campers learn how to live a more sustainable lifestyle by growing what you eat.   According to the New York Times, the food Americans eat travels an average of 1,500 miles before reaching the table.  Eating food raised locally reduces reliance on fossil fuels, encourages outdoor exercise and reduces eating foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup and trans-fats, both of which are linked to obesity and heart disease, in studies cited by the Times.  

A daily ritual at Green River Preserve is the practice of composting ORT, organic, recyclable trash or food left on your plate.  “Ortman,” a superhero from the planet Compost and his side kick, “Scrappie,” visit each night at dinner to give an all camp “Ort Report.”   Camper tables strive to be “ort free” during camp.  Ortman’s motto, “Waste not want not” resonates throughout camp.  Un-compostable foods are given to local farmers for pig slop.  This simple, creative program in recycling food is a teachable moment in sustainability for our campers.  

(Part IV will be posted next week.)