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Nature Rocks! Summer Youth Camp
Northeast Region, June 2, 2017
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Giselle Smisko, director of the Avian Wildlife Center, presents a class in bird recognition. A rescued Blue jay and Eastern Bluebird assist.
Giselle Smisko, director of the Avian Wildlife Center, presents a class in bird recognition. A rescued Blue jay and Eastern Bluebird assist. - Photo Credit: M. Vaccari
Our newest outdoor amphitheater is put to use, as Biologist Marilyn Kitchell instructs the campers in animal habitats.
Our newest outdoor amphitheater is put to use, as Biologist Marilyn Kitchell instructs the campers in animal habitats. - Photo Credit: M Vaccari
A lesson in Nature Photography is presented by volunteer Karen Blakely VanDyk. This was one of the campers' favorite classes!
A lesson in Nature Photography is presented by volunteer Karen Blakely VanDyk. This was one of the campers' favorite classes! - Photo Credit: M Vaccari
Kayaking is a popular activity at the Refuge. Here our Biology Tech Ken Witkowski takes the class out.
Kayaking is a popular activity at the Refuge. Here our Biology Tech Ken Witkowski takes the class out. - Photo Credit: M Vaccari
Sketching a likeness is an important way to record observations. Here the class is engaged in drawing a dead beaver.
Sketching a likeness is an important way to record observations. Here the class is engaged in drawing a dead beaver. - Photo Credit: M Vaccari
Only a little basic fishing instruction gets BIG results!
Only a little basic fishing instruction gets BIG results! - Photo Credit: M Vaccari

Nature Rocks!
If you don’t believe me, ask any of the twelve children who attended our Youth Camp this May.
Designed and conducted by our Resident/RV Volunteer and former middle school teacher, Michael Vaccari, Nature Rocks! is a series of classes for eight to twelve year olds. There will be three more eight day sessions held this summer. Each four hour class incorporates outdoor activities with indoor lessons. These lessons focus on observing the natural world, and on the importance of managing it, at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge.
Each camper is supplied with a backpack which contains a pair of binoculars, a compass, a magnifying glass, a notebook, and a Birding Field Guide. The child also receives a Junior Refuge Manager Booklet which contains activities and lessons that help the child understand the mission of the WRNWR.
Our first session was held this May for home schooled children. Experts in a variety of fields engaged the campers with live animals, mounted bee and wasp specimens and live demonstrations. They led hikes along the Refuge’s several trails in search of birds, signs of mammals, habitats, and tree and plant varieties. The campers were encouraged to record their experiences in a daily journal, receiving lessons in writing, drawing and photography to make their record more effective and memorable. They also received lessons in math and making observations to make their notes precise.
One memorable lesson centered on a dead beaver, we named Bucky. Bucky had found his way from the Refuge’s specimen freezer to a spot along an open culvert in the field near our classroom. We visited the scene occasionally over four weeks, each time making observations, writing notes or drawing pictures, describing the stages of decomposition as it occurred.
The day wasn’t all work however; the children were also able to engage in some fun activities as well. They went kayaking, received basic fishing instruction, and had fun with creative writing techniques and acting out stories.
Future sessions start in mid-June and extend until early August. Among the activities described above, these sessions will also include lessons in Orienteering and using telemetry to hunt for Amphibians. There will also be lessons in basic Archery Instruction.


Contact Info: Fran Stephenson, 973-702-7266 x 10, fran_stephenson@fws.gov
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