For thirty years our mission has been to give campers a safe summer in which they can be themselves, have fun, be challenged, connect with others and the earth, develop new life skills and be supported throughout.
Because we are a part of the natural world! In nature children (and adults) feel joy, excitement, connection, and a sense that the world is essentially a good and healthy place. Living in a fast-paced, high-pressure, socially digitized society can often overwhelm our primary connection to the natural world. Nurturing a child’s sense of wonder in nature restores and strengthens the inherent connection each has to the earth and its inhabitants, and engenders a sense of individual belonging within a larger, active, healthy world.
Rather than having a nature center at The Nature Place, nature is the center, and becomes the focus and thread that weaves throughout our varied activities. We also imbue our social life and camp culture with nature through songs, games, stories, and more. Our program provides children with a sense of gratitude, cooperation, creative inspiration, and a larger context of connection.
“Direct sensuous reality, in all its more-than-human mystery, remains the sole solid touchstone for an experiential world now inundated with electronically generated vistas and engineered pleasures; only in regular contact with the tangible ground and sky can we learn how to orient and to navigate in the multiple dimensions that now claim us.” -David Abram
Non-competitive means a great deal more to us at The Nature Place than simply offering cooperative games in lieu of regular sports. It is also an attitude and way of living in the world: accepting people as they are, recognizing that each person we encounter is worthy of our respect, believing that how we treat others is as important as what we can accomplish.
At The Nature Place we feel very strongly that the important life skills of communication, cooperation, collaboration, teamwork, and leadership are best taught and enriched in a non-competitive setting. We manifest our philosophy in all aspects of our program: we encourage and motivate campers to acquire new skills and improve on others, to learn a new swim stroke, climb higher than last week, or get a bull’s eye at archery. We do this not to better our peers, but to mark our own progress, grow, and take healthy risks in a supportive environment.
Our Games program is filled with fun, physical activities that emphasize inclusion and enhance coordination, confidence, and self-esteem. By removing the pressure of winning or losing, and by taking away the fear of looking ‘not good enough’ in front of peers, campers can actually engage fully in an activity, have fun doing so, and feel good about themselves in the process. Instead of playing soccer or baseball, Nature Place campers play games like ‘What time is it Mr. Fox’ or ‘Octopus tag’, learn circus skills like walking a slack-line or plate-spinning, and participate in Group Initiatives that require campers to assess a challenge together, come up with possible solutions, and then accomplish a goal as a group.
Skills learned through cooperative games and active participation in a non-competitive environment prepare children to navigate through life beyond camp. Learning how to communicate through differences, working to include all members of a group, and joyful participation in an experience with a focus on process rather than the end result, are competencies we believe to be fundamental to living a healthy, meaningful life.
This Callout on our home page and some of our advertising is inspired by a particular passage in a book entitled The Sense of Wonder, by renowned naturalist Rachel Carson.
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”