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For Mothers and Children
Oglebay Institute of Wheeling, West Virginia, conducts a playground day camp serving two groups-children and mothers with small children.
Inaugurated in 1929, the camp serves each season some 3,000 children under twelve from playgrounds, orphanages and settlements. The city Recreation Department has the entire responsibility of choosing the children who attend the camp. Each day from sixty to seventy of them are given free transportation to the camp in buses and are provided with a half-pint of milk by the Institute.
Arriving in the morning at Picnic Site No. 1, the location of the camp in the park, the children. embark on a full day of camp adventures under the leadership and care of a director and two assistants, a practical nurse, the Institute naturalist and his assistants, and a number of volunteer leaders.
Following the ceremony of flag raising, a varied program is offered. There are games, movies, a trip through the museum and gardens, pony rides and nature activities including an Explorer's Club for children particularly interested in nature. There is ample time and opportunity for wading in the brook, playing on the grass and climbing trees, for many of the children have little or no chance for such activities at home. At four o'clock
Short Term Camping
Camping "by the day" and other variations of the camp theme each year add new interest to the playground program
camp closes and the children reluctantly leave for home.
In 1931 there was inaugurated a "Mothers' Vacation Day," a day on which mothers come to camp with their small children. For the past two years two days a week have been set aside for this group. Children invite their own mothers and young brothers and sisters for these days, and the camp is moved to Point Cottage adjoining the playground day camp. The smaller children are cared for in the day nursery by a nurse and her assistant. There are games and story-telling for the other children, and for the mothers, a nature field trip, a visit to the museums, games, craft, singing and a trip to the gardens where each mother may pick a bouquet to take home. For many mothers this is the only vacation from home during the entire year.
The staff, beside the director, is made up of volunteers and workers from the WPA.
A Day Camp for Boys
A tranquil section of a city park in Houston, Texas, became a camping ground for 164 boys on successive Thursdays in August of last year. The Council of Social Agencies had gone on record as favoring a camp experience of at least a day for every boy in the city free of charge and the project was launched.
The camp was run six Thursdays in all, the first two being directed by the Houston Recreation Department, and the remainder by the Boy Scouts and the Y.M.C.A. Boys over ten were eligible.
The program started at one o'clock and continued until nine at night, the boys bringing their "nose bag" suppers with them from home. The Boy Scouts conducted the opening flag raising and immediately afterwards the boys were divided into groups of ten with an adult leader assigned to each group. Each group took the name of an Indian tribe and elected a chief and assistant chief
and made up a tribal yell for purposes of identifcation. Having become Indians, all the tribes were taken to the museum and zoo. The tribes then met together and the rest of the program for the day was explained.
A nature hunt was scheduled-a cross between a scavenger hunt and a treasure hunt. The "finds" were laid out in original designs. Then followed games and athletics including soft ball, volley ball, paddle tennis and tumbling, organized on the basis of inter-tribal competition. Woodcraft, wood carving and coping saw work were offered during the whole afternoon.
Supper came at 6:30, then flag lowering and dual contests until time for the evening fire. The evening fire program lasted nearly two hours with songs, games, stunts, stories and competitive cheering on the program. "Taps" concluded the program and day filled with adventure at camp.
"Summer Home Camping"
Camp Yomawha, run as a a "summer home camp," by the Young Men's and Women's Hebrew Association of Washington Heights, New York City, may lack hills and trees and streams on its camp site, but it has offered a real day camp program for six years in its home in a city building. It is the purpose of its staff to carry on the educational aims of the school during the summer months and to provide for city-bound children as much of an outdoor camp experience as possible.
The camp is open for boys and girls six to fourteen years of age on a cost basis of $35 for eight weeks, $20 for a half season, or $5 a week. Last year out of 124 children attending the camp, twenty-nine had scholarships. This fee covers the cost of transportation (to pool and trips), swimming in a private pool, lunches, and staff salaries.
Each child is examined by the camp physician upon joining the camp and conferences are held. with parents. Every attempt is made to make the program as "campy" and informal as possible. The staff members are "counselors" and are called by their first names.
Camp opens at nine in the morning and closes. at four in the afternoon. The hours between those times are filled with active and quiet events suited to the various age groupings - Midgets, Juniors, Intermediates and Seniors. Music, dramatics, hobby groups, handcraft, swimming (daily) and dancing play an important part in the program, but nature and outdoor activities, an integral part of a camp program, are stressed
particularly and are carried out on the roof, in the park, and on trips afield.
Camping from "Noon to Noon"
The "Happy Days Camp" of the Akron, Ohio, Recreation Commission and Board of Education is located in a park, a part of the Metropolitan Park Plan just eight miles from the center of the city. It serves all children who attend the summer playgrounds.
The children remain in camp for twenty-four hours from noon to noon-boys and girls attending on alternate days with approximately fifty in a group. They bring their own food and blankets.
The Recreation Department provides cots, transportation, supervisors and chaperones, and administers a program including swimming, nature study, hiking, handcraft and personal hygiene. In 1936 over 1,600 children spent a day at camp.
A Camp for Underprivileged Children The camp which the Recreation Division of the Park Department of Springfield, Massachusetts, conducts is for underprivileged children of the City Welfare, Family Welfare and Soldiers' Relief families. It is run for a period of eight weeks, four weeks for boys and four for girls. starting the Monday following the Fourth of July and lasting through August. Each child is allowed five days at camp - Monday through Saturday.
The camp, which accommodates ninety-eight children, is situated three miles from the center of the city on the shores of a large lake. There are fourteen cabins with eight beds in each. A small swimming pool and shower baths and an athletic field for games are among the facilities. Blankets, pillows and soap and towels are all provided. In fact, the youngsters are not required to bring anything to camp except clothing.
The past summer (1936) there were 918 children in camp, 470 boys and 448 girls, representing thirty-one different nationalities. The average gain in weight was two and a half pounds although one boy gained seven pounds and one girl
The Belleville Recreation Camp
From an experiment in municipal camping in 1931 involving twelve boys and borrowed equipment, the Belleville Recreation Camp of the Recreation Commission of Belleville, New Jersey,
SHORT TERM CAMPING
has grown into a full-fledged camp. In 1936 it boasted six army tents with floors, a screened and electrically lighted dining hall and a swimming pool. Two hundred and eighty children from seven to fourteen years were enrolled during the summer season, coming to camp in small groups on Monday and leaving on Saturday. Boys and girls are allotted separate periods. Adults use the camp over the week-ends. All groups are examined by the town nurse before attending camp.
An allocation of $700 by the Town Commission for food and donations from the Rotary and Lions Clubs and the assistance of the WPA and volunteers made it possible to run the camp free of charge for the children of distressed families in Belleville.
The program includes nature study, story-telling, camp craft, handcraft, swimming, hikes, games and sports, singing and first aid.
Overnight Camping on the Playground Last summer the Department of Public Works of Rome, New York, conducted a unique experiment in overnight camping which proved to be one of the most effective activities sponsored by the department in focusing public attention on what could be done on a playground.
William L. Koch, Superintendent of Playgrounds, decided that though a summer camp was out of the question it should be possible to arrange for a limited camp experience which the children of the playgrounds could enjoy at little expense. A program of overnight camping on the playgrounds was the result. The Department was fortunate in having a suitable camp director in an individual working on a TERA playground project. With the leadership problem solved, the next step was an appeal through the newspapers for tents. The response was immediate and contributions poured in until there was an abundant supply of tents from pup tents to those of a circus vintage! Some of the children made their own
Opening night found the camp filled to capacity. A number of fathers spent the first night in camp with their boys. Several workers served as tent leaders.
Little equipment outside of the tents was necessary. The toilet facilities of the shelter house were used, and the first aid kits available on all the playgrounds were on call to take care of any minor accidents. It was necessary to provide a large
container for drinking water. Wood for the camp fires ceased to be a problem when permission was secured to use wood which a near-by farmer donated.
Each night there was a camp fire program. In writing of this activity, Mr. Koch says: "The programs need not be involved nor elaborate each night, but once or twice during the week leaders in the life of the community can be called in to give information and educational talks. We were able to call on Boy and Girl Scouts for programs. One troop of Boy Scouts had for its leader a man versed in Indian lore. This troop had been trained in the rituals and dances of several tribes and was able to put on a worthwhile program at several camps. The Chief of Police spent one evening in each camp and was able to create a friendlier attitude between the boys in the camp by dispelling the erroneous idea that a policeman is a natural enemy, saying that he is really a protector and friend."
The boys' camp was so popular that the girls decided that they, too, would like to have a period set aside for them. This was done after contacts were made to determine how public opinion would react to such an experiment. It was found that much the same organization as was used for the boys would serve for the girls' camp. It was felt wise to have two responsible men stay in the camp to avoid any possible danger of disturbance by hoodlums.
"The program is not possible," says Mr. Koch, "unless the leaders in charge are willing to work just a bit harder than the average playground leader, especially in the early stages. It does pay big dividends to a community. The program may not carry over when the novelty wears off but when that happens we hope to be prepared to take the children down new and interesting avenues of experience."
"Every effort should be made to find a day camp site that has an atmosphere of the woods. The beauty of a camp depends upon the woods, mountains, rocks, flowers, meadows and waters that surround it. Some wooded land and some level ground are desirable. Both sun and shade are needed. The site should provide opportunities for nature study, exploring, handicraft, and, if possible, swimming, canoeing and boating. A site with porous sand or gravelly subsoil is preferable."-From Girl Scout Day Camps.
What Does It Mean?
HE STUDY of nature lore
may be absorbing or boring as a leisure pastime. It is absorbing for those who have learned that it offers adventure, companionship and discovery. It is boring for those who know not how to go about enjoying nature or sharing her many benefits and pleasures.
It is not always the fault of the child when he shows no interest in nature. Many times he is reared on tales of snakes, vampires and other supposedly hideous creatures that cause him to fear wild things. Often he is the child of parents who are not interested in natural lore themselves and fail to encourage the boy in that field. Today we find many men professing an ardent interest in nature, but their interest is abstract and passive.
No one can appreciate the lack of interest in nature lore better than one who has conducted classes in nature study at a summer camp, and I was not surprised when only two boys registered for my group on the opening day of camp. The camp director was kind enough to loan me his camperaft class for the first day. The next morning, when I called the roll for a hike, I had the largest class in camp!
I took care, on that first day, not to mention one scientific fact. I asked no one to identify a tree or a flower. None of the boys was required to listen for bird calls. A few weeks later the entire class were doing those very things-and were enjoying them! That first morning I asked the boys to hunt for turtles and frogs. The turtles were for the camp aquarium and the frogs were for the snakes which, I promised the boys, we were to catch alive at a future date. I heaved a great sigh of relief when the boys went at their work with sudden interest and enthusiasm.
It was my mention of snakes that won the boys to my side. The prospect of keeping some living reptiles in camp appealed to them immediately. Even those who feared snakes were 78
truly fascinated by the thought of catching a wild creature alive. I have never departed from that form of approach in my nature work with boys. While I do not always use a snake cage to sell my business to students, I always get some
thing tangible as a starter. It may be a live rodent in a cage, an ant colony, or a box of silkworms, but it serves as a moving, living article from nature's wonderland.
If you want your son or your student to learn to enjoy nature, be sure that you don't start him out on a technical basis. There will be sufficient time for more organized and scientific study after he has learned the more entertaining side of nature study. The first thing I do is to drop the term, "nature study," for it reminds the child of work and school. Nature lore and woodcraft both mean the same thing as does nature study, but their psychological appeal is much greater. Don't make the child believe that an interest in nature and wild life is a duty, a responsibility. It is, rather, a heritage, the privilege of every man. Henry Van Dyke tells us that the mountains are free. So it is with all natural terrains. The plains, the forests, the rivers, the swamps-all are free and for us to enjoy and understand. But how-we have often asked ourselves-shall we start?
Ways to Start
There are two ways to start. One is to secure a copy of a standard natural history reference and dig in. Another method is to read a book of exciting animal stories or adventures of men who
Nature study goes beyond jars of preservatives and identification charts. If you're at camp it may mean the fun of cruising along weedy banks and poking under logs and lily pads for frogs; of hunting turtles and learning about animals, trees and insects by coming to know them intimately.
walk in the wilds. I have found that if one cares to maintain his interest in the out-of-doors starting on the latter course is preferable. I usually relied on a few Indian legends and the story of a lonely trapper and his dog in the Canadian woods to get my boys into the spirit of (Continued on page 108)
the Recreation Department conducts a well-organized overnight camp. It brings to every child an opportunity to know the joy of sleeping under a ceiling of stars, a way to gain a deeper appreciation of the wonders of nature, a chance to learn to adjust himself to rules and routine so necessary in the intimate life of the camp, and a means of understanding the importance of his own self-reliance in doing for himself as well as caring for the welfare of others.
The fact that no child need be excluded for lack of money to pay camp fees or other expenses in itself justifies overnight camping as a part of the regular summer program. An overnight excursion will in no way conflict with other camps already being conducted, but in most cases will make more complete the usual summer camping program.
Albany is a small suburban community adjacent to metropolitan Berkeley and Oakland, and forty-five minutes from San Francisco. Albany has its own Y.M.C.A. annual summer camp for
boys and girls, and many camps are offered by Recreation Departments, Boy Scouts, Y.M.C.A., Camp Fire Girls, Girl Scouts and other organizations of neighboring cities. It was therefore surprising to learn that large numbers of children in Albany were being denied opportunities for camping of any kind. The many enthusiastic responses to the first announcement that overnight camps would be conducted by the Recreation Department indicated that the activity was desired and definitely needed.
When the Recreation Department first planned overnight camps the site selected was little more than a spacious back yard. It was a large playground located in an outlying district of town, partly surrounded by trees, with a sheltered area for a camp fire. Had it not been for the opening of the East Bay Regional Park with its majestic redwood groves and other virgin forest areas not more than twenty miles distant, plans would have been carried out for the in-town camp. Though this camp could not have offered the same attractions as the Regional Park site, had the providing