Never have kids been more disconnected from their local environment. According to the National Wildlife Federation’s recent report “Connecting Today’s Kids With Nature” we are now seeing the “first American generation to grow up effectively isolated from nature.”

Between cartoons, video games, social networking, text messaging and a full day of playdates, practice and other structured activities today’s children don’t have nearly as much time for simply playing outdoors.

Research by groups like the American Academy and Pediatrics and the Kaiser Family Foundation find that the average child in the U.S. spends more than four hours in front of a TV, computer and/or video game screen when time using technology at daycare, school and home is taken into consideration.

So what’s a concerned parent to do? This summer, why not give nature camp a try.

For more than 30 years the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s Nature & Environmental Summer Day Camp in Hopewell has offered the fun and fellowship of summer camp, the magic and inspiration of nature, and the timeless value of education about our environment.

At the Watershed Association’s 860-acre Watershed Reserve, children entering grades one through nine can enjoy a variety of environmentally themed weeklong camp sessions, which run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 5 through August 13. Whether it’s learning about animals and wildlife, water, insects or even outdoor skills, there’s something to spark the inner explorer in every child.

Want to learn more? Stop by one of two Summer Camp Open Houses at the Watershed asociation’s Buttinger Nature Center (31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington) on Saturday, March 20, and Saturday, May 15, 1 to 4 p.m. Meet the Camp Director, check out the Buttinger Nature Center, explore the Watershed Reserve’s trails, fields and forest, and register.

Don’t miss out on Early Bird Registration! Sign up before April 1 and receive a free baseball cap for each child registered (while supplies last). Sibling and multi-week discounts also available. To download a Summer Camp Brochure & Registration Form visit www.thewatershed.-org/bnc/summercamp.html.

Jeff Hoagland has directed the Education Program at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association since 1984. An environmental educator and teacher-naturalist, Jeff founded the Buttinger Nature Center in 1989 and provides workshops for classroom teachers interested in incorporating the environment into their classroom.

The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is central New Jersey’s first environmental organization, protecting clean water and the environment since 1949 through science, education, conservation, and advocacy. The Watershed Association protects the 265-square-mile area drained by the Stony Brook and Millstone River and serves more than 10,000 children and adults each year through nearly 400 education programs. Visit www.thewatershed.org.

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