Baltimore Camps Provide Nature and Nurture


(Imgorthand/ E+ via Getty Images)Camps these days are (mostly) not what they used to be. From STEM and robotics studies to theater and mixed media art productions, campers needn’t get a sunburn if that’s not their thing. But luckily, Baltimore-area camps have plenty of options for camp purists who want to get their hands dirty. Whether it’s the all-nature-all-the-time programming at Nature Camps in Monkton, the fire-building, rope-swinging Survival Camp at Beth Tfiloh Camps, or the species-studying and wilderness-hiking activities at J Day Camp, campers can still get lost in the great outdoors.

At Nature Camps in Monkton, kids are divided into groups by which activities they want to do, not by their age. Nature Camps Founder and Director Don Webb says this benefits youngsters and pre-teens alike.

“Ever since we’ve began, we’ve done things by choice, which means we’ve always had 4-year-olds to 12-year-olds in the same group,” said Webb. “That works marvels. Older kids thrive helping younger kids. Young kids thrive on getting ideas from kids who are older.”

Journaling or drawing are key components of the experience at Nature Camps. On the first day, all campers make their own softback journals and a small group cooks walnuts over a fire in order to make their own ink, which they’ll use all session when chronicling their adventures.

“Nature Camp is all about sensory awareness, about helping kids to see things in a new way,” said Webb. “There’s a path that goes from the main camp down to the Gunpowder River. And maybe you can get there in 10 minutes on the path. But our goal is to not do that. Our goal is to stop and see things, stop and journal, stop and draw.”

Nature Camps offers Teen Adventure programming: five- to seven-day trips immersing the campers in traditions and cultures of nearby regions. At Spoutwood Farm in Pennsylvania, campers learn to farm, harvest and cook their own meals for five days, and the popular week-long Appalachian Trail hike has campers mingling with locals, taking in an oral history of the region.

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In Reisterstown, Beth Tfiloh Day Camps has your STEM, arts and theater covered, but it’s the Survival Camp that’ll put kids to the test. Whether the campers, ages fifth to eighth grade, are hiking trails, building fires or maneuvering through the ropes course, they’re always learning, while breaking a sweat.

“It’s a neat concept. It’s a chance for kids who want to be outside with nature,” said Beth Tfiloh Day Camps Director Michael Schneider. “The campers are enjoying themselves in ways outside of the usual playing ball or making crafts.”

As part of Survival Camp, participants will take part in two overnight camp events and also have the opportunity to take a day trip.

“It’s a good place to practice the skills you’ve been learning during the camp like tenting and setting up fires, and enjoying camp from the dirty side,” said Schneider.

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At J Day Camps, camp hours are broken into six 40-minute activity sessions, which often include an outdoor element such as exploring a nature trail or learning about local leaf species.

“Nature is such an important part of Camp in general, getting kids outside is something we strive to do because year-round they don’t necessarily get that experience,” said J Day Camps Senior Director of Camping Emily Stern.

For kids who really want to immerse themselves in the outdoors, J Day Camps have partnered with the Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown for the Tiyul Adventure Camps (day or overnight) where campers do everything from identifying animal tracks to celebrating Shabbat in the forest to planting and harvesting seasonal vegetables on Pearlstone’s vast farm.

“That program is a deep dive into the outdoor experience,” said Stern. “They spend the majority of, if not all of, their day outside exploring the world around them.”G

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