Discovering Nature: Youth Storytelling Contest

Art, poetry, and essays from Camp Fire youth!

Read Time 8 minutes

October 2023

This fall, as part of our 2023 Youth Storytelling Contest, young people submitted artwork, stop motion videos, stories, and poems sharing how being in nature sparks joy, magic, or growth in their world. The creativity of these young people beautifully expresses the importance of what Camp Fire Minnesota has done for the past 100 years and will continue to do for the next 100 years.

Thank you to all of the talented participants, and congratulations to the Top Prize and Honorable Mention recipients!

Honorable Mention

Fish, age 10, “Nature and How it Connects to Me” – Without nature, our world would not – simply could not – have developed to the point of our modern world today. Being out in nature is great for a person’s mental health, physical activity, awareness, and more. Nature has a calming effect on the human body and is featured in many forms such as art, media, and books. When I am out in nature, I feel at peace with the world and with myself.

What is nature? This question is incredibly important in the context of this essay. When I say “nature,” I bet most people think of a dense, leafy forest. It is important to consider the true definition is an area untouched (or largely untouched) by humans. Nature can be in the middle of the ocean, on a dusty plain, in a sweltering desert, or in a subterranean lake with axolotls. Nature is beautiful, raw, and diverse.
Nature is a prominent feature at Camp Fire Minnesota. The cabins are in the middle of the woods. We have nature lessons, go on hikes, and swim in the lake. Camp Fire really helped me connect with nature through these activities.

The kids at Camp Fire were so kind and inclusive. As a transgender camper, I felt accepted for my real self. The camp community is also beautiful, raw, and diverse – just like nature. I really like Camp Fire Minnesota and I’m excited to go back next summer.
Camp Fire Minnesota helps kids connect with nature and each other, learn to appreciate the natural beauty of the world, and have a lot of fun while doing it!


Honorable Mention

Ella, age 12, “Camp Fire: Fun All Year Round”


Honorable Mention

Pepper, age 12, “Untouched Beauty”
The way the slumbering oaks and towering spruces sleep peacefully upon the moss. The clear view of a bed of lush clovers, a quiet meadow untouched by human greed. The way the sunlight shines through the summer leaves like stained glass. How the rays showering the ground in a warm glow, tanning the soil.
How in the center of the deep forest it was as dark as the heavens untouched by starlight. How even on the brightest day, sunlight would be completely claimed by shadows.
How the tall grasses are so sun-kissed they glowed. How the woods turn shades of a crimson sunset in the fall, the leaves flying to the ground, growing a carpet.
How mosses are so lush you could sleep on them, and the leaves, so beautiful they could be a painting. How you can never capture the essence of the landscape in an image. How you can only imagine it.

This is why I find nature so fascinating and magical, it’s so beautiful, to describe it seems to be written like poetry. I find that to be in a landscape that is untouched by humans, that has been about the same for hundreds of years is just captivating!
The rest of the world we see is just an empire of concrete nothingness, a kingdom of meaningless glass and brick. We harness all that nature can give us and we don’t give back, in fact we just take even more. I find it so sad that humans think that they are better than every other species on the planet so they take the planet for themselves.


Kathryn, “Bird House” stop motion video – WATCH HERE


Aubree, age 14, “How Camp Fire Has Helped Me” – I first attended Camp Fire in 2022, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I wanted and needed a change of pace, and Camp Fire was definitely that. I have met some amazing people both years I’ve attended and afterwards they’ve both been “the best week of my life”. At first, seeing the no phones rule had me relatively annoyed, because I practically live on my phone, but being without it was so so amazing and rejuvenating. I mean sure, my feet definitely hurt after 5 days of very frequent walking, my heart did not hurt. I’ve struggled with my mental health for a very long time, and being outside and surrounded by nature at Camp Fire, I’ve been the happiest I’ve felt in years. Last year when I was at camp it was very warm the whole week I was there, but even the close call with a heat stroke didn’t change how happy I was. The environment at Camp Fire is absolutely amazing. Everyone is so so kind, the campers, the counselors, all of the staff, absolutely everyone. You’re encouraged but not forced to do things out of your comfort zone, which I was quite afraid would be the case. I am forever grateful for everything Camp Fire has done for me, and how it has helped me become a happier, more social, and better person.


Eric, age 10, “Nature is Always Fun” – Nature has sparked something in me because there are a lot of animals and I love animals. There is a bunch of trees that you can climb, you can entertain yourself in nature. I’ve never got bored because there’s a lot of things that you can do. You can also build a fort in the woods, you can take a hike and see the beautiful things in nature. You can also go on the water and enjoy how cold it is on a hot summer day. You can also play with your friends in nature. It has always been fun, never boring, you can always imagine something in nature because of all the things around you. You can see waterfalls, you can see canyons instead of looking at a boring screen. Go and have fun in nature, and you’ll never be bored again because of nature! And that’s why nature has sparked something in me it’s because it’s never boring to play in. Thank you


Christian, age 14, “The Growth of Nature”


Laura, age 14, Untitled – Nature allows me to take my mind of worries and troubles, and brings me peace to mind. When I think being in nature I don’t think taking a 5 minute walk or weeding plants I think being in the woods, learning new activities in nature, campfires, games or taking a long nature walk, something memorable like the events Camp Fire holds. After leaving camp I noticed my use of my phone decreased as I learned to accept the joy of nature and the social events nature can hold, nature is a getaway, and you can make the most of it, and at Camp Fire your vacation awaits! Even just on week at camp feels like an eternity with all the new relationships made, and the fun memory’s made. Camp Fire is great, and I can’t wait to be back.


Marin, age 10, “My Time at Camp Fire” – Camp Fire was a lot of fun, at the end of the week it had to be done. We built some shelters with some helpers. We made friends till the end. I learned a card game we played some hard games. I learned to canoe they called it boating too. I got dirt in my mouth on the slip n slide, I went so fast I felt I could glide. The week went by so soon, it felt like 1 day then I saw the moon.


Sophie, age 7, “The Jungle”


Natalie, age 9, “Clouds”
Clouds are just like cotton candy
playful and airy.
When the wind comes by, it takes a cloud, it nibbles on it
than sets it back down.
Clouds can be different shapes different sizes…so if you see a cloud, just run by it!


Sage, age 15, “Ode to a Stone”

This stone is small and uniform, so gray
Compared to others, glist’ning merrily;
All golden agates in the river’s spray—
But this one, drab and plain, calls out to me.

I sit secluded, pencil in my hand;
I hoped to sketch a landscape, water clear,
Forsaken now by inspiration’s light
As I’ve been halted by nature’s command,
Creative urges all but dashed, I fear,
Enchanted by a stone, as dull as night.

This stone is round and soft; it’s in my palm,
The world is empty, save for it and I;
It speaks to me: a mournful, whispered psalm,
As I lean forward, list’ning to it cry.

It’s strange: no cells, no skin nor cytoplasm,
Yet this stone has a life and had a birth—
A history, rich, molten and sublime.
It tells of fire and flame, an ancient chasm,
Of places long forgotten ‘neath the earth,
Where thus became a stone, older than time.

This stone is tired and flat; it’s quiet now;
In fact, I must admit, it’s somewhat cold—
Exhausted from this hour of telling tales,
It sleeps upon my hand, its ballad told.

I’d venture to regale it with my own,
But I, though stories cloud my worldly head,
Am but a blink in this stone’s weary eye.
So I, irrelevant and quite alone
Lay it to rest upon the riverbed.
How fleeting, to a stone, surely am I!

When future men find wonder in my bones,
I still shall not have seen more than the stones.


Sanaiya and Noelle, ages 8 and 9, “Friendship”


Victor, age 12, “Nature Memories” – Nature can make memories, memories that last a long time. For example, me, my brother, and our best friends used to come down to these woods by my house, it had everything, a mini lake, two vine swings, perfect fort building sticks, everything. We used to play games like zombie apocalypse, pets, and more. We built forts, we sharpened sticks. We made our imaginations happen. But when our best friends moved to Switzerland I was lost. I was sad, everyone was, but not as much as me. Then one day I went to the woods and when I got there, I saw that uncompleted fort we built then I remembered it, all of it, the fun we used to have. I smiled a sad smile. That memory will always be remembered when I go down to those woods.

Another example is when I went to overnight camp at Camp Fire, I became friends with everyone in my cabin (including the counselor), I felt like I was back at home, but I was having a 3-day sleepover. I felt comfortable to be myself. But when it was the last day, I felt like I wanted to stay longer. I was sad to see my pals go, but you got to go where you got to go and for them it was home, then my parents came and I had to say goodbye, but I’ll never forget my pals that I made at Camp Fire.

Last example, one time I went hiking somewhere in the mountains. My family took a 10 mile hike in the mountains, this was the next level of hiking. After the 7th mile I started feeling discouraged. But it was all worth it, the mountains were beautiful! I keep thinking back to it when I get discouraged.


A huge thank you to our judges, Shayla Reaves from WCCO, Lalo Edmondson (alumni/board member), and Boden Brown (camper/Youth Advisory Council member)!