Nature camps help children understand the world of plants and animals and how they fit into it, says Judy Hohmann, marketing and communications manager at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. “Many kids, unless they live in a farm-type setting, don’t understand the nature of plants,” she says. “When they go to the grocery store and see a carrot, they don’t know exactly how it gets there.”
At the Arboretum, kids learn how carrots get from the ground to the store to the plate, and much more. Participants sow seeds and then nurture, water, and weed the growing plants, which they can take home for transplanting. “We’re giving them a dose of what we call ‘Vitamin N,’” she says.
It’s part of a growing national movement to help today’s kids step away from their screens and become familiar with and comfortable in nature. “It’s science learning, but we try and keep it more unstructured, informal and fun.” And you can extend the experience afterward with a backyard garden, as well as family outings to the Arboretum and other outdoor places.
Where To Explore Nature
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Day camps, family weekends, and a kid’s garden. Chaska, 952-443-1422, arboretum.umn.edu
Year-round programs include teen conservation and family learning. Apple Valley, 952-431-9200, mnzoo.com
YMCA Twin Cities
Day, overnight, and family camp, plus teen wilderness training. Many locations, 612-230-9622, ymcatwincities.org
Three Rivers Park District
Family days, nature programming, and geocaching on 27,000 acres. Western suburbs, threeriversparks.org
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