June 2022 – As we gear up for summer, it’s hard to believe that another school year has come and gone. This academic year, we launched a Nature Immersion Program, connecting students to nature all year long by integrating on-site field trips with in-class environmental education, at no cost to a qualifying partner school. Camp Fire Minnesota piloted the program this year with Exploration High School, a new charter school in Northeast Minneapolis. Read on for highlights and favorite moments from our pilot year!
1. Camp Fire Minnesota worked with 50 young people in 9th and 10th grade throughout the 2021-22 academic year.
2. Students experienced nature in their own neighborhood. Our naturalists visited Exploration High School monthly to teach ecology and STEM-focused lessons, and to facilitate team-building.
3. During our first visit to the school, students set collective goals for the year and shared what they hoped to learn. “I want to step out of my comfort zone,” said one student.
4. Students explored Camp Fire’s 103 acres during three on-site field trips. Lessons in our Big Woods, wetlands, pollinator garden, prairie, and adventure areas provide endless hands-on learning opportunities. A few activities became student favorites:
“I enjoyed learning about dirt and soil. It was fun to dig in the ground.”
-Otis, 9th grade
“I enjoyed the activity around wetlands, because I want to be a marine biologist. I also enjoyed archery because it’s been a few years since I did it.”
-Cidrew, 9th grade
“I liked rock climbing the most because it’s something I don’t usually get to do.”
-Danae, 9th grade
5. We ended the year with a celebratory overnight at Camp Fire. Students skipped rocks on Lake Minnewashta, cooked dinner and s’mores over the fire, played games, and slept in cabins. They also experienced an exciting spring thunderstorm while at camp. “I really liked the bonfire stuff, it felt very comfy and we all seemed to get along during it,” remembered Albedo, 9th grade. “It was the most fun I’ve had on a school trip this year,” said 10th grader Taran.
6. Several Exploration High School students are attending summer camp during Teen Week this July, where they’ll experience Camp Fire traditions, meet new friends, and try more outdoor activities. We are also leading a group of Exploration High School students on a Northwoods Adventure Trip this summer!
7. The program brought to life goals 1-3 of our 2020-2022 Strategic Plan: 1) driving diversity, equity and inclusion by offering no-cost nature programs to under-resourced youth 2) using Camp Fire’s property as a community asset; and 3) expanding partnerships to build the next generation of environmental champions. “I learned more about respecting nature. I also learned about plants and different animals and their habitats.” explained 9th grader Lynlee.
8. Students discovered why the outdoors is important to them. The main reason? It feels great to be outside – mentally and physically:
“It just feels nice and it helps me be at peace or calm down.”
-Ethan, 9th grade
“I got a break from my phone.”
-Cristian, 9th grade
“Getting some sun, feeling better while outside, and a more motivated feeling.”
-Enrique, 10 grade
9. We are eagerly planning the 2022-23 academic year with Exploration High School as they expand to add an 11th grade. We’re excited to grow the partnership and help even more young people discover their spark in the outdoors.
10. The RBC Foundation – USA made our Nature Immersion Program possible through their support and generosity!