See You Next Summer

The summer rush of camp season is officially over here in Florida. The kids return to school, in most counties, this coming Monday. I’m taking the weekend to think back on the last three months of life. Environmental education doesn’t get much of a spotlight throughout the usual school year curriculum – part of the reason that I try so hard to make an impression on those students we do see during field trips and outreaches. But for three months, every summer, each zoo and aquarium and nature center around the country throws caution to the wind and goes on a blitz of wildlife and wild places related fun.

Camp isn’t just a break in summer or a chance to be away from parents. It is a genuine opportunity to grow as a young person and to pursue interests outside of school. I truly enjoyed sneaking in facts about raptors and osprey while dissecting owl pellets and smearing on blackout paint beneath our eyes to play games. I loved being able to take students on a weeklong adventure through my strongest field of knowledge instead of getting just a few precious hours with them. And of course the afternoon thunderstorms, animal touches, and water balloon fights add to the charm of camp season.

More than that, I felt like I inspired dozens of students to think of science as an interesting game of questions instead of a nerdy pursuit only favored by the outcasts of a typical school society. Even better, I felt that every camper left me on Friday afternoons with a strong sense of what imperils wildlife in the world and what they can do at home to help. I admit I may have thrown the “plastic equals death”-hammer (as one friend calls it) a bit hard but if I only get a week to rally support for the oceans then I’ve got to make it count.