Kids Agree: Our Camp Rocks!
Dino discoveries and city safaris made our Adventures in Nature Connected a summer multi-screen blockbuster. Queue up the sequel—Winter Camp!
For seven-year-old Ava Corgan, one clear winner for Best Summer Day was heading outside with her family, equipped with a museum-issued paleontology exploration kit—a magnifying glass, collection vial, and field journal, for her inaugural fossil hunt. “We would go for a walk and my brother would dig for big rocks. Every single day we would have our fossil questions.” The second grader learned from her instructors that fossils are found in sedimentary rocks (identifiable by layers), that birds are living dinosaurs, and that dinosaurs “grew up from babies.” Ava could just imagine a yet-to-hatch T. rex tapping out from its shell like its modern, feathered relatives! “That was pretty fun and it was also amazing because we had dino eggs and little tools to dig and we found a little dino baby inside! Another amazing thing was when we made bird masks and wings to go with it.”
Ava was one of 625 gleeful campers that Zoomed into the new online version of the museum’s popular camp, Adventures in Nature Connected, which included 320 free reservations to local community-based partners. Each week, gaggles of kindergarteners to 5th graders explored one of four museum topics: dinos, oceans, tar pits, city nature. They each had a DIY activity kit that had a workbook that overflowed with inspirational possibilities: dire wolves that roamed during the Ice Age, alligator lizards inching around the yard, and creatures diving off our coast. The intrepid young naturalists met museum researchers, educators, and performers who ferried them around underwater ecosystems, shared songs about whales, and sent kids scouting for footprints of wild mammals smaller than themselves during neighborhood scavenger hunts.
Let the Fun and Games Begin!
Emily Baker, one of the museum’s dozens of staffers guiding these virtual adventures, covered everything from the scatalogical guessing game favorite (what poop belonged to what animal) to how paleoartists bring fossils to life. In the latter lesson, Baker put a "skele-cam" on the screen for campers to demonstrate how to draw a living creature based on what its bones look like, how its shape might be different after adding body fat, muscle, feathers. “We put a pigeon skeleton on the skele-cam and asked the kids to draw what animal they thought it was. Everyone drew a flamingo because of the curved s-shaped neck that the pigeon has under all those puffy feathers!” Baker said the best thing about camp for her was witnessing the sparks of discovery flickering through those computer screens. “Seeing that lightbulb go off in their heads about the many ways we impact nature and nature impacts us. Sometimes it was as silly as getting giggly over rattlesnake poop and sometimes it was thoughtful, like debating why building unnecessary extra buildings might be hurting our urban carnivores.”
Many parents give AIN camp’s instructors high marks. Regina Wonkyung Lee said her son, Jiwoo Song, a 9-year-old 4th grader at College Park Elementary in Irvine, was of course, all about the dinosaurs (his favorite topic). But Jiwoo was equally absorbed by the virtual underwater excursions along the California coast.“ I enjoyed learning about sea creatures; There were different kinds of shells and clams, and plants in the water and I was surprised about that,” he said.“ AIN Camp is the best Jiwoo ever went to,” said Lee, “because it has the best of best instructors!”
Ava’s mother, Karina Moreno Corgan, who has been in the education field for 20 years as president of the Dolores Mission School, agrees. “The teachers in the camps were super engaging,” she said. “I really loved that critical thinking piece. We're always depositing information into their brain rather than helping them to be inquisitive, to understand context and just to ask questions. I thought it was an opportunity for kids to learn on their own, but also work as a family on family projects, too. I just thought it was so incredible.”
Members-Only Winter Camp Sign-ups Now Open!
Camp runs from January 4 to 8, 2021, for kindergarten through 5th grade. Members can register here. Registration will open to the public on Monday, November 16.