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Kids Nature Adventures: Glenn McCormick

April 30, 2010

From time to time, I conduct interviews with camp directors to collect advice for parents looking for unique experiences for their kids.  I recently exchanged emails with Glenn McCormick of Kids Nature Adventures in San Francisco.  Kids Nature Adventures is a mobile day camp and each day is a new adventure in a new location designed to provide safe, fun and meaningful hands-on experiences in nature.  The abundance of active and passive activities that kids can enjoy in nature are endless and the natural open spaces of the Bay Area are the perfect playground.

With so many camps to choose from, any tips on how to pick the right camp for your kids?

I think it is important to try and narrow down your choices by matching your child’s interests and personality with the activities that each camp offers.  Nobody knows this better than the parent, but don’t hesitate to involve your child in the decision making process too.  Once you have selected a few camps that you think would be a good fit for your child, contact the director and ask detailed questions to see if the camp fits with who your child is and what you want from the experience.  Also, talk to families whose kids have attended each camp and ask if they believe the camp delivered on its promises.

What questions should parents ask a camp?

Start by trying to learn about the camps’ philosophies and programs.  “What makes each camp unique?”  is a good first question.  After that I would focus on the staff.  The staff is the single most important resource any camp has and it will be the most important factor in ensuring your child has a successful camp experience.  Some of the questions to ask are:  What are the staff hiring practices (qualifications)?  How experienced is the staff?  What is the counselor to child ratio?  Before ever consider a camp, you should feel comfortable with the answers and be sure that the camp has a solid, experienced staff of mature individuals who have verifiable experience working with children.

How should parents prepare their kids for camp?

Ensure your child is energized about camp long before it begins.  In the weeks leading up to the start of camp, talk to your child about how exciting the experience will be and try to offer ideas of what to expect.  If your child has any concerns about going to camp, it is also a good idea to talk about those, as well, and, if necessary, bring their concerns to the attention of the camp director.

The summer is long, and many kids attend six to 10 sessions of camp.  Any tips on how to prevent camp burnout?

Try to find camps that have a nice balance of structured activities and down time.  I think one of the contributing factors to camp burnout is the over scheduling of activities at some camps, which leaves kids with little time or energy to explore their world on their own.  After all, it is summer and the most crucial and unexpected highlights of the summer will probably happen when kids are given time to engage in free, undirected exploration and play.

Any last tips for parents?

Take your time and do your research when choosing a camp.  Every parent wants to put their kids in an environment where they can thrive and choosing the right camp can make it happen.

Lastly, please tell us what’s special about Kids Nature Adventures?

Our staff:  The Kids Nature Adventure staff is our camp’s greatest strength.  All of our staff are professional educators or college graduates pursuing higher degrees in education, and they all have extensive experience working with children.  Most importantly, though, they are all innovative, creative and energetic people who cherish the opportunity to share their love of the outdoors with kids.

Our program:  Kids Nature Adventures is all about bringing children and nature together in a relaxed and unhurried way.  Central to the program is the belief that balancing structured activities with plenty of time to explore and play freely provides unlimited opportunities for fun, adventure and learning.  While we do follow general themes each day and have activities planned, it is the children’s own interests, discoveries and observations that guide our daily explorations, rather than any predetermined activity schedules.

The mobility factor:  We are a mobile camp, which means each day with us is truly a new adventure in a new location.  We explore the amazing natural open spaces to the north and south of the Golden Gate Bridge, including beaches, tide pools, wetlands, forests, lakes, creeks and meadows.  There are so many amazing places to visit in the Bay Area that the hardest thing to do each day is decide where we are going to go.

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