For parents interested in connecting their kids to nature, you have many choices in Marin. The number of opportunities to connect your family to nature can indeed seem overwhelming at times, which speaks to the rich dedication of individuals in our community to preserving our lifeblood, the Earth. A gift, for sure.
But indeed, in this richness, there are differences that we think make our camp a great choice rather than just a good one.
Why aren't we a nonprofit? Nonprofits rely on grant funding that is tied to the mainstream thinking and economic realities at play at any given time. Often the programs offered are created around the funder's priorities, not what the nonprofit identifies as the best connection points with its constituency. Often the funding comes from state or national sources that have no real identification with the actual issues that face the community to which the camp speaks, i.e. the connective tissue that gives all of this relevance - "sense of place" - is lost.
By relying on what is essentially crowdfunding, we ensure that entirely local dollars support entirely local programs. And by embracing sustainability principles to limit overhead and administrative costs to essentially nothing, we have the ability to offer scholarships and support schools and make sure that our local funding stays entirely local but at the same time supports kids from all economic backgrounds in our area. We continue to seek new collaborations to make our camp more and more accessible. Our small camp donates more than $10,000 worth of camp experiences on an annual basis to support local schools and kids in need.
How are our methods different and cutting edge? Maybe you have accompanied your child's class on a nature-oriented field trip at school or have attended a nature activity offered through one of Marin's nonprofits on the weekend. You may have noticed that during a lead up to the actual outdoor event a nature educator described what you could expect to see so you could be prepared to see it.
Our method is essentially the opposite. We invite our campers to make all of the observations they might - about everything. The creatures, the ecosystem, the off-the-wall sighting incapable of categorization. And then we let them tell the stories. And ask questions. That we are not going to answer. How do we know what a creature does and why it does it? Almost nothing compared to what could be known about what and why the natural world does is known. Every observation made and question asked is not just valuable but invaluable. Kids are powerful. They can see what adults can't see. They can make observations that we can't make having shut off the ability to recognize the amazing as impossible given what we know. We'll never tell your child that he or she didn't just see what he thought he saw. The power of observation. The power of concentration. Uncensored. Unchecked.
This is one main reason why our program is developmentally appropriate. We don't tell your child that they're wrong. We congratulate them instead for making the observation that is unique in this moment. And we ask them to look some more. Our hope? They'll never stop looking. And loving the Earth.
As always, we'd love your feedback. See you on the trail!