SCAMP: Science Camp And Marine Programs (Part I)

Why go to camp, when you can go to SCAMP??  Although this is the chorus to our camp song, it also poses a great question. Why would you go to a normal, run-of-the-mill day camp when you can come exploring the world of science with SCAMP (Science Camp And Marine Programs) at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats.  As one of the program’s counselors and coordinators, I am fortunate that some children seek to find the answer throughout their summers.

Being in my position, the answer is as clear as a tide pool on a nice summer day: SCAMP is awesome!  Where else can you walk through a muddy salt marsh up to your waist? Cruise down the Merrimack river looking at salt marshes?  Crawl through amazing tide pools and touch live animals? Take an adventure on a whale watch? Or even visit a butterfly garden?  As you may have guessed by now, the only answer is SCAMP!

SCAMP is a camp that is composed of hands-on science, live animals, fun games, and craft projects for children aged 6-9. Each four-day session is a fun-filled learning adventure created to increase awareness and inspire stewardship of the natural world.  Also, a child can attend either one or multiple camp sessions, depending on their scientific interests!  This year, we have the following weekly themes: salt marshes, the rocky shore and tide pools, oceans, insects, and birds.

The kids making their own tide pool animals from recyclables!

So far, we have only completed two of the SCAMP weeks (salt marshes and rocky shore) but they have been so much fun for both the counselors and campers!  As a summer camp intern, we have to plan the entire camp schedule and come up with the creative games/activities to keep the kids’ attention on a daily basis (harder than it seems!).  I really love how all of the interns are completely responsible for choosing what constitutes a day at camp.  This is where being a diverse group of college interns really comes into play.  For example, I can use my passion for theater and improv to help the kids make their own puppet shows using puppets we made earlier in the day.  The first week, we made paper horseshoe crab puppets and for week two, we made tide pool animal puppets from recyclables!  The kids are so creative that they can write and act out a play, and the results are rather adorable to watch!  The puppet plays have been so successful already that they will be a weekly activity at SCAMP for this summer and into the future.  It’s amazing how quickly the interns’ ideas are accepted and implemented into the immediate curriculum of SCAMP!

SCAMPers performing their plays with their personalized tide pool animals made from recyclables

 

The most convenient aspects of having a marine science camp at Joppa Flats are its useful location and features.  The Joppa Flats Education Center is complete with a children’s education room, a 110-gallon interactive touch tank, and a bird viewing room that overlooks a beautiful salt marsh of the Merrimack River.  Additionally, the Joppa Flats Education Center is located at the gateway to one of the country’s most productive year-round wildlife viewing areas, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and the Plum Island estuary.

So far, the campers have just loved their experience with SCAMP.  Although it is mostly fun games/activities, we also make sure to have educational stations and we always have a science lesson behind our games!  Most of my planning time is dedicated to finding the best way to learn while having fun; I love thinking of classic fun games (obstacle courses, relay races, tag, rock-paper-scissors) but building them upon a new, scientific foundation.  Another great aspect of SCAMP is that all of the cool arts and crafts we make are taken home by the campers!  Finally, the great staff-camper ratio lets us all get to know every camper on a personal basis.  This is great because we have options for all the campers so they can all participate in certain activities that fit their personal interests!

There is also a new, one-week program for older children (10-12) called Young Scientists.  This is the first year in which this program is being held, but we’re very excited to start!  This in-depth program is meant to let the kids become actual naturalists and develop an individual project or research question, and spend time in two tide pools (Plum Island and Beverly) to gather two separate data sets.

But what is the real answer why kids should spend their summers at SCAMP?  Well, it has to be our camp mascots, Piper and Pippen, the piping plover chicks (of course, they are stuffed animals).  Each day, two campers take home both Piper and Pippen and can write or draw what they did with the birds in their own journals.  From tanning on the beach to lounging by the pool to watching jeopardy, these birds get to have awesome summers with the campers that display excellent behavior throughout the day!  Piping plovers are federally threatened birds that are protected on Plum Island’s critical habitat at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

Although I’m a leader of SCAMP, I absolutely love participating in the activities we create.  I think we do such a great job at planning because we are really just kids at heart (we know what’s fun!).  I’m very excited to continue to meet new kids every week and I just hope that I inspire them to never stop loving the natural world.  For me, that’s something that always continues to grow, even as I get older.

Personally, I have found out that my favorite part of the day is teaching the kids something new.   As leaders, we frequently choose our own mini lesson plans and create a 10-minute station on anything we want!  For example, during camp today (ocean week) I led a discussion on shark anatomy.  It was so fun to teach them something that I am very knowledgeable and passionate about.  I love having the ability to educate them and also let them be a participating audience.  The ability to create a lesson in which my audience is interacting and thus having fun is something that I have greatly improved upon this summer.  I am very proud of the fact that I am an effective educator of biology to both college sophomores (as I am a bio lab TA) and to a 6-year old.  Although the difficulty of biology is vastly different, I approach teaching the two age groups the exact same way; keep the science simple, relatable, and fun.  If I am being silly, enthusiastic, and clearly having a fun time teaching then I guarantee that my students will take something valuable out of my lesson.  As a science student myself, only the teachers that are able to make science fun have had a positive influence on my education.  If I am to be an inspirational science professor someday, then mastering this ability is something that I need to always be working on.

Matthew Eames ’13

SCAMP field trip to tide pools at Rye Beach, NH

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  1. Hi Matt!

    It sounds like this is such an interesting and fun camp. Not only does it look like the kids are having a great time, but this is such a good way to show them how wonderful nature is and how important conservation efforts are. Plus i love the puppet show made of recycled material. Can’t wait to hear more about your summer!

    Kevin

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  2. Matt, I love your enthusiasm. Yes, you are very fortunate to be a part of this program; but the “scampers” are even luckier to have counselors with so much creativity and positivism. You and your co-leaders are an active and integral part of these kids developing a social/environmental conscious because you are also supplying them with warm and wonderful memories of Joppa Flats. Thank you!!

    Kathryn

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