There’s a unique local camp that emphasizes hands-on, experiential learning about the great outdoors: Fernbrook Farms.

Its mission is to help campers explore the complex interconnectedness of the natural world while educating them about agriculture and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Of course, all this is done in a fun environment under the supervision of an experienced staff.

"Your kids are going to get a little dirty at Fernbrook Farms, but that’s because they’ll be exploring nature and the outdoors up-close and personal," said Education Director Eric Tadlock. "Our camp is a fun way for kids to get past ‘nature deficit disorder.’ To quote author Richard Louv, ‘the health of children and the health of the earth are inseparable.’"

Fernbrook Farms Summer Camp runs from Tuesday, July 6 to Saturday, September 4. There are full-day programs for kids from 6 to 14, with extended care available. Campers may select just one week or all eight, and can add weeks as the summer progresses.

"At our camp, we develop, create and nurture a sense of community," Tadlock added. "There’s a small camper-to-staff ratio of 7 to 1, and our staff are teachers who like to spend the summer teaching outdoors."

Fernbrook Farms Summer Camps are part of a nonprofit education center operating on a working farm. Campers work under the supervision of teachers on the 230-acre farm with manicured gardens and 60 acres of forest, creeks, streams and ponds. They explore and play as they learn.

"Campers get to choose activities, and that makes it special," said Tadlock. "They could be looking for insects and frogs in ponds, catching butterflies or making ice cream with milk and fruits from the farm."

The Summer Enrichment program for teens (12 to 14) is theme-focused. Each week’s theme hones in on some natural aspect of New Jersey, such as the wetlands. Kids take trips to these natural environments and learn about them from the professionals. For example, they may work with a conservationist or scientist in a wildlife management area or a state park.

"Our teens expand their science knowledge while exploring New Jersey’s great outdoors in a structured, fun way," Tadlock noted. "This program is limited to 20 campers, and runs for 8 weeks from July 6 to 31, and August 1 to September 4."

Fernbrook Farms makes all its camps affordable by offering a variety of discounts, including an early registration discount for those who pay by April 1. There are also sibling, military, four consecutive-weeks and referral discounts. Tuition includes a healthy snack; campers should bring a bagged lunch.

Kids who like the great outdoors and who want a truly unique summer camp experience may learn more at www.fernbrookeducation.org, or by calling 609-298-4028.

Fernbrook Farms Summer Camp. Route 545, Chesterfield Township. 609-298-4028. www.fernbrookeducation.org.

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