Yes, we want kids to leave camp with smiles and memorable experiences, but our goal is to support camper growth. We believe kids can become competent, confident problem solvers and Nature’s Farm Camp is setup as an environment for kids to flourish.
It’s 2022 and, compared with previous generations, kids spend less time in nature, less time communicating face-to-face and eat more food of limited nutritional value. COVID-19 only exacerbated inequities.
Each week of camp begins with us telling campers about our high expectations of them. The kids help run the farm, and have responsibilities to make decisions on how we spend our time. The novel experiences are often centered around food, but it’s not necessarily because we want the kids to become farmers or chefs (though that would be great).
Food is the lens we see the world through. Camp activities – be it animal chores, building projects, cooking adventures, nature art – are designed for kids to move their bodies and stretch their brains. It’s an immersive social environment, where kids collaborate, take positive risk, think critically and develop authentic face-to-face relationships.
Being surrounded by dirt and trees, and eating great food with caring, non-judgmental adult mentors, kids thrive. We see kids leave camp walking a little taller and think it’s because they have a better understanding of emotional wellbeing, are more skilled at decision making and know they can learn anything, anywhere.
We continue to evolve our program, but, since the beginning we have been intentional about making the camp experience available for kids of all backgrounds. Each year our Campership program includes refugee kids, foster care kids and kids who can’t otherwise afford the price of camp.
Based on both formal surveys and direct post camp feedback, our program impacts the kids and families from our campership program in a bigger way than those not on the program.
At the same time, in the camping world, there are fewer campership options than in the past. According to the American Camp Association, in 1961 there were more than thirty Illinois camps focused on low income children from Chicago. Today, that number is four.
We understand: you have lots of good charitable options of where to spend your hard earned dollars. Thank you for considering supporting our efforts. Help us plant more kids in nature. Help us grow the campership program, so more kids leave inspired, ready to engage with their communities to build a better Chicago.