By Tyler Edmondson, Education Director
As I look back on 2016, I cannot help but reflect on the impacts that our Summer Nature Camps are having. Maybe it’s because I’m often the van driver for Camps that I’ve come to think about the transformational process metaphorically, as though looking into a rear view mirror.
The growth that Camp participants experience is often profound, and starts on day one. In the rearview mirror, I often see first-timers to “Bird Camp” with looks of apprehension, nervousness and even a bit of fear. Maybe it’s because they were forced to attend Camp by their parents, or that they were talked into it without really understanding what they were getting into. In the rear view mirror, I often see new campers struggling with low self-esteem, anxieties and insecurities, depression, poor physical health, and an indifference toward the natural world.
As returning campers initiate bird song identification competitions, I see looks of dismissal by some who still consider themselves too “cool” for birds. I see veteran campers and staff engaging them in meaningful conversation, and new campers sheepishly responding to questions posed to them. They begin to perk up, perhaps recognizing that someone is truly seeing them, listening to them, and accepting them for who they are.
Later, I see a van full of campers singing silly songs at the tops of their lungs, and belly-laughing so hard they cannot breathe. I see campers summiting their first mountain and waking to the sound of the dawn chorus for the first time. I see sleeping campers drooling on the shoulders of former strangers. With their guard now lowered, they’ve opened themselves up to new friendships and possibilities.
On the final day, every one of the campers in the van have been to “Bird Camp” at least once and have this in common. In the rear view mirror I see inseparable new friendships. I see campers holding back tears as we pull away from our temporary home in the mountains. I see campers silently pondering how their lives will be different when they return to the everyday. I see campers who are excited to continue nature journaling, birding, and playing in the out-of-doors. I see campers who are excited to share their new-found passions and knowledge with others. I see a community of powerful, young leaders.
At that moment, in the rearview mirror I see hope and joy.
I see self-confidence, freedom, healing, and peace. In the rearview mirror, I also see the future.
My Life-Changing Moment
by Rachel Dunbar
It was my eighth grade year. When I made that first step into Barr Lake State Park, a blissful feeling swept my body. An air of relief filled my lungs and exhaled all my doubts. After dropping me off at Bird Conservancy’s Environmental Learning Center, my parents never saw the same Rachel again. Only 6 days were needed for me to completely transform into a different person. One who wasn’t afraid to let others hear her voice, see who she is, someone no one had seen before. I often wonder what transformed me. The solo hikes, the bird watching, my growing independence, my new best friend. Then I finally realized it was all of it. All of the good stuff that makes camp, camp. The things that make you not want to let leave; you wish to see the smiles, hear the laughter, and feel the joy all over again.
Rachel is an Alumna of Bird Conservancy’s Taking Flight camp and Leaders-in-Training Program. She plans to pursue a career in ornithology and is currently an intern in the Collections Department at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
You can help make life-changing experiences like Rachel’s possible with a donation in support of Bird Conservancy’s educational programs. Please visit our Colorado Gives Day page. You can pre-schedule your contribution NOW to be debited on December 6th, Colorado Gives Day. All contributions received that day are matched with incentive funds from Community First Foundation. Thank you for your support in helping connect people, birds and land! Together, we are changing lives and changing landscapes.
Educational program scholarships are made possible through support from the Denver Field Ornithologists, Brighton Legacy Foundation, The Dellora A. and Lester J. Norris Foundation and Adams County Open Space. Additional program support from the Science & Cultural Facilities District.