ST. CHARLES – Have a camper who’s not happy unless he or she is outdoors all day? The full-day nature camps at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center offer a summer of outdoor adventures that combine fun in the sun with off-site field trips, afternoons at Otter Cove Aquatic Park and exploring the many natural wonders in the fields and woodlands around the Discovery Center.
“For working parents, an all-day camp is a great care option when looking for safe, supervised activities for their child,” Laura McCoy, nature programs supervisor, said. “From the camper’s point of view, it’s really nice because this combines the perfect balance of science learning with outdoor fun.”
An all-day camp might be the next step up for children who are ready to take on more independent experiences but who aren’t quite ready for an overnight, stay-away camp. Open to children entering first through eighth grades, both younger and older siblings in a family can enjoy the experience of being campers together, as each takes part in age-appropriate nature- and science-based activities, games and experiments and enjoys field trips to local attractions, nature museums and state parks.
A typical week’s camp schedule could include nature activities in the morning followed by an afternoon of swimming at Otter Cove on Monday and Friday; a morning spent hiking and an afternoon conducting nature experiments on Tuesday; or an off-site field trip on Wednesday and an outdoor adventure day on Thursday.
“There’s a camaraderie that comes with an all-day schedule,” McCoy said. “The longer format gives campers and counselors the opportunity to build a relationship.”
It also means having time to really dig into a subject, to work on more involved activities or experiments that may take hours before results are known.
Each week, the camps will follow a different theme. Campers in the Treasure Hunt camp from July 9 to 13 might explore various St. Charles Park District locations looking for items that satisfy a specific theme. Or they could spend an afternoon playing nature- and science-based games during Nature’s Carnival from July 16 through 20. There’s even a Harry Potter-themed camp when Nature Wizards is held from July 23 through 27. Camp counselors bring with them a wide array of backgrounds that make each camp theme come alive through challenging experiments and activities.
“Our counselor for the Sounds of Nature camp has experience teaching band at the middle school level so there will be a strong musical and creative component to the curriculum,” McCoy said. “We’re excited to incorporate a lot of cool things into each camp day.”
With their strong immersion in science and nature combined with an equal outdoor-activity component, full-day nature camps are a great way for campers to put down their phone screens and get in touch with their inherent senses. Activities such as scavenger hunts and geocaching, for instance, help campers hone observational and orientation skills by focusing on elements in the world around them. The Sounds of Nature camp will sharpen their sense of hearing by teaching campers how to identify bird calls, while the Slimy and Scaly camp can help them appreciate their sense of touch as they interact with the Discovery Center’s resident reptiles and amphibians.
“Our mission for nature camps is to help children develop a strong appreciation for science while encouraging a love of outdoor recreation,” McCoy said. “This gives children much needed time away from their phone and computer screens and gets them outside in fresh air and sunshine where they can play, get some exercise, let off some steam.”
The 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday camps begin the week of June 11 through 15 and run through the week of Aug. 6 through 10. Campers are encouraged to wear closed-toe shoes (no sandals) and bring a sack lunch.
For more information, contact Laura McCoy at 630-513-4393.