Outdoor Education – Camp

For our Summer and Winter Camp Programs, we are outside as much as possible. This page groups information about our current outdoor education initiatives according to the following areas: (1) the Eco Fun Program, (2) Outdoor Skills Sessions, (3) Rec Time, (4) Overnight Hikes & Campouts, and (5) General Camp Activities.

Please note that our OAK Program and Leadership Camp have other opportunities for outdoor education. They may participate in some of the general camp opportunities detailed below, but those campers often have different activity focuses.

1. The Eco Fun Program

As an organization striving to create forest education opportunities for youth, the Eco Fun Program is one of our top priorities. Every camper in our summer and winter camp programs participate in Eco Fun programming while at Evans Lake.

The Eco Fun Program focuses on growing camper interest and knowledge related to biodiversity, ecosystems, and human-environment connections. That’s the “Eco,” the ecology focus of the Program. The “Fun” comes from our educational philosophy and approach to learning–it’s more effective when it’s fun! Evans Lake wants to help more youth have more fun learning about and connecting with nature. That’s what our Eco Fun Program strives to do, through interactive, inspiring, and place-based programming.

During summer camp, the Eco Fun Program is delivered through multiple activity blocks. Content varies from camp to camp, but the general breakdown of Eco Fun delivery is as follows:

  • 3 to 3.5 hours of forest education lessons, spread out over the course of the week (depending on age group, campers either rotate through all sessions or sign up for their preferred sessions),
  • 1.5 to 2 hours of unstructured forest time, spread throughout the week,
  • 1 or more hours of Eco Fun programming on the overnight hike and campout,
  •  the game Survival (an epic campwide predator-prey game in the forest), and
  • one more all camp event to wrap up the week (the Aroo Games for Youth Camp, the Water Olympics for Junior Teen Camp, and the Eco Fun Fest for Teen Camp).

Every year, we adjust Eco Fun topics and themes to meet evolving interests, new research, and the wonder of returning campers. The following list highlights a few of the concepts or themes explored through the Eco Fun Program in the past:

  • Forest succession
  • Tree ID
  • Natural dyes
  • Decomposers & decomposition
  • Pollinators
  • Bats & bat boxes
  • Macroinvertebrates
  • Rocks, minerals, & mountain ranges
  • Trail building
  • Nature writing

2. Outdoor Skills

Campers participate in lessons to develop outdoor recreation and survival skills. These lessons are 60 to 75 minutes long, depending on age group. Activity selection also varies depending on age group. Campers rank options according to their preferences when they register for camp. On Day 1 of a summer camp session, our onsite team confirms campers’ choices before sorting campers into activity groups. Campers typically participate in two outdoor skills sessions in one week of summer camp. 

The following list shows the outdoor skills sessions offered by Evans Lake in Summer Camp 2019:

  • Archery
  • Canoeing
  • Orienteering
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Rock Climbing
  • Shelter Building
  • Wilderness Survival Skills
  • Low Ropes
  • River Float (offsite activity for Youth Camp)
  • High Ropes (offsite activity for Junior Teen Camp)
  • Ziplining (offsite activity for Teen Camp)

These sessions are an opportunity for ELFES to achieve our goal of connecting youth with nature. We have the ability to develop and deliver unique outdoor recreation and living skills programs—e.g. you can have a canoeing lesson anywhere, but can you have a canoeing lesson that teaches you how to canoe, allows you to interpret a rockslide, and encourages you to pretend to be a dragonfly just anywhere?

3. Rec Time

Rec Time is a chance for campers to experience many activities, just one they really love, or somewhere in between. There is no sign-up for Rec Time activities, as campers have the freedom to come and go as they please (as long as they’re at one of our supervised stations!).

The following list shows some of the Rec Time activities offered at Evans Lake:

  • Swimming
  • Archery
  • Canoeing
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Rock Climbing
  • Low Ropes Challenge Course
  • Eco Fun activities (e.g. nature walks)
  • Crafts (e.g. friendship bracelets, eco crafts etc.)
  • Games (e.g. Gaga ball, frisbee, soccer, basketball, volleyball)
  • Chill Zone (e.g. a quiet space for reading, chatting, relaxing, etc.)
  • Showers (while campers have opportunities to shower at multiple points throughout their stay, the end of Rec Time is a popular choice)

Rec Time is an opportunity for ELFES to achieve our goal of connecting youth with nature. We have the ability to develop and deliver unique free choice activities—e.g. you can paddle board in lots of places, but can you paddle board in a supportive environment with people helping you do nature paddle board yoga or guiding you to the best spot to watch round-leaved sundews capturing their prey just anywhere?

4. Overnight Hikes & Campouts

In a week of Summer Camp, all campers have the chance to go on a hike and to sleep at one of our designated campout locations. On Day 1 of summer camp, campers rank their hike options. Our onsite team then sorts campers into hike groups according to their preferences. “Hike Day” is typically in the middle of a camp session, and is a great opportunity to explore the forest beyond the typical Evans Lake boundaries.

The following list highlights some of the activities completed on hikes and campouts:

  • Swimming (at Evans Lake or at other mountain lakes that we’ve hiked to from Evans Lake!)
  • Hike & Camp skills (e.g. setting up camp, safe drinking water, leave no trace ethics etc.)
  • Eco Fun activities
  • Campfire

Overnight hikes and campouts are another opportunity for ELFES to achieve our goal of connecting youth with nature, as we have the ability to develop and deliver unique hiking and camping activities.

5. General Camp Activities

In a week of camp, there are many opportunities for other activities that may be done individually, in cabin groups, or as a whole camp. The following list highlights some of these activities:

  • Swimming (what can beat a morning or evening dip in the lake?!)
  • Campwide games (e.g forest games like Capture the Flag or field games like Stones)
  • BOSS Time (stands for Butts On Something Soft! This is our version of a rest hour. It’s a chance for everyone to rest up so they can get the most out of the day’s activities)
  • Campwide performances (e.g. charades or skits)
  • Campfire
  • Duties (e.g. restocking the firewood bin – this is one of our ways of building community and making this space our place. For duties, we all work together to keep the facilities and site in tip top shape!)