AUDREY ZIMMERMAN, Camp and Special Events Coordinator
As skunk cabbage emerges and the frozen world around us begins to thaw into the renewing, greenish-brown, muddy season we call spring, our summer camp team is focused on one thing: Camp registration. Metro Parks summer camp registration opens on Friday, March 1, 2019 at 8am. During our days spent answering emails and phone calls from interested camp families, hiring counselors, planning camp programs and doing everything in our power to ensure the registration process runs as smoothly as possible, the topic of competition often comes up. Why Metro Parks summer camps? What makes us different? Of all the summer opportunities available to families in our Central Ohio community, why should families choose us?
Our campers spend their days outside exploring the parks. They fish, splash through creeks looking for crayfish, use mud as face paint, play games, kayak, practice archery, have soccer tournaments in the pouring rain, put on talent shows, make new friends, see wildlife, engage in programming with our counselors and park staff and learn about the natural world around them. We offer a space for campers to come as they are – veteran campers who lead some of the programming to first-time campers who have never spent more than an hour outside at a time. Regardless of our campers’ relationships with the outdoors, we welcome them with muddy, suntanned arms and invite them to experience the magic that is summer outside at Metro Parks.
I’m always reminded of this especially during the counselor hiring process. Each spring, we have the opportunity to meet dozens of highly-qualified candidates. They are college students and teachers who come from a wide range of fields, but all have one trait in common: the desire to engage children with the outdoors.
“I get to spend all day in the great outdoors sharing my love of nature with campers. From planned activities teaching campers about the natural world around them, to spontaneous creek hikes and water fights, every day brings something new. This will be my third year as a camp counselor and I have enjoyed every minute of it because I get to teach and inspire a passion for being outdoors,” said Maria, a third year counselor.
Our camp program offers campers and their families up to seven different camps each week of summer to choose from. We offer traditional day camps for grades 1-6 at Highbanks, Homestead and Scioto Grove Metro parks each week. These camps are less structured and offer families the option of utilizing the included before and after care hours. We also offer nature adventure camps which are age-specific camps for preschool, kindergarten, grades 1-3, grades 4-6 and grades 7-9. These camps are more structured and rotate to different Metro Parks throughout the summer. Having two styles of camp gives us the ability to make sure we have a camp program that meets the needs of each camper, all while offering them a week of new, fun experiences in the outdoors.
“I am passionate about two things: people and the planet we live on. Which is why Metro Parks’ summer camp has a special place in my heart. It’s a space where these two passions come together to foster each other’s growth and awareness. I keep coming back because it provides me with the privilege to be a mentor to our community’s youth. Particularly, to build positive developmental relationships with them all the while, hopefully, inspiring some level of fondness for mother nature,” said Gabbi, a third year counselor.
So, why Metro Parks Summer Camps?
Each time I’m asked this question, my reaction is always the same: I pause, and then I smile. I smile because I know we have something rare. I smile because I get to work with dedicated and talented people. I smile because I know I’m fortunate to work for a camp program that promotes values like curiosity, engagement in outdoor recreation, environmental stewardship, nature education, friendship and fun. I smile because the answer to these questions is really quite simple: Metro Parks summer camps offer our campers the rare opportunity in this fast-paced, highly demanding world, to slow down, connect with the natural world and people around them, and just be kids.
Come see for yourself and don’t forget to pack a change of clothes. And extra shoes. And a water bottle. And extra sunscreen. And… you get the picture.
We’ll see you this summer.