week 296 photoPhoto by: Dustin Angell

32nd Year of Archbold Ecology Summer Camp

This summer, Archbold held its 32nd Ecology Summer Camp, affectionately referred to as ‘Scrub Camp’. Started in 1992 by Nancy Deyrup, Archbold’s Ecology Summer Camp hosts 7 to 12 year old kids during weeklong ecology and conservation themed day camps throughout the summer. Dustin Angell (Archbold Director of Education), Katie Caldwell (Archbold Education Assistant), and Michaela Herron (Jill Abrahamson Memorial Environmental Education Intern) organized the popular summer camp sessions this year. Teen volunteer ‘counselors’ and adult volunteers helped keep the campers engaged and the camp running smoothly. The camp also drew on Archbold’s science, conservation, and operations staff to organize and run seven activities.

The theme for camp this year was conservation, which highlighted Archbold’s four pillars – saving the rarest of the rare, sustaining grasslands, connecting large landscapes and wildlife corridors, and addressing climate change. As in past years, campers enjoyed an immersive place-based learning experience. Campers explored Archbold’s outdoor classrooms, from the Florida scrub and wetlands near the Station buildings to the grasslands at the Archbold Reserve. They met with Archbold scientists, Archbold Librarian Joe Gentili, and wildlife photographer George McKenzie Jr. Activities included field research, scavenger hunts, and hands-on games. Campers learned about Archbold’s science through activities structured to develop science knowledge, environmental identity, connection to nature, and a sense of place.

Archbold also offered a new two-day camp for children in the Boys and Girls Club of Highlands County. The two-day camp was made possible by a generous gift from the late Paul Ebersbauch and the community-building efforts of Michaela Herron. Janice Rearick, Boys and Girls Club Interim Executive Director/CEO, wrote, "One of the site directors told me she has never seen so many smiles coming off the bus. She was amazed how each child arrived early to the club on Day 2 to ensure they didn't miss camp." Archbold’s Education Director Dustin Angell said, "The involvement of wildlife photographer George McKenzie Jr. and the enthusiastic staff at the Boys and Girls Club made this partnership a success.”

Archbold Ecology Summer Camp is also a community camp. Throughout the past 32 summers, nearly 2,200 children have come to know the area they live in a little better. Dustin Angell is proud of the camp’s success with local families: “Half of our campers will return next year, and half of them will be coming for at least their third summer. Some return because they want to become scientists, but I think the rest come back because environmental education is inherently fun and sharing nature with friends feels good.” Angell thinks the campers’ feelings of safety and belonging lead to a stronger sense of place. “I hope they all fall in love with Highlands County and feel they have a role to play as citizens and environmental stewards.”

Reflecting on the summer camps, Katie Caldwell said, “Bringing people – especially children – out into nature is my favorite part of being an educator at Archbold. It is so rewarding watching each camper connect with the natural world in their own unique ways – some climb trees, some collect rocks, some create little herbariums in their notebooks. A few main highlights from this year include watching our ant farms, trying homemade pine needle soda, looking for dung beetles in cow patties, and catching crayfish at the Neofiber Pond.”

Camp sponsorships, made possible through donations, help ensure Archbold’s Ecology Summer camp is accessible to all local children. This summer the application process was streamlined, resulting in more families utilizing this opportunity. Encouragingly, Archbold was able to offer 14 camp sponsorships in 2023, more than most pre-COVID years and more than double from last summer. Please visit www.archbold-station.org to learn more about Archbold Ecology Summer Camp and other educational opportunities at Archbold.