By Jeff Hoagland, Education Director, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed

Summertime provides a host of opportunities for children, now free of the rigor and structure of the school year. Many will go on family vacations to other locales. There are also trips to the beach, fun times at the swimming pool, lazy days hanging out with friends, and the adventure of exploring the natural world. And then there is summer camp.

The summer camp marketplace is full of a wide variety of camps focusing on an assortment of topics. There truly is a summer camp session for everyone. Few summer camp experiences could have more lasting meaning than an up-close and personal look at your own environment.

Our children belong outdoors. Richard Louv’s landmark book, Last Child in the Woods, illuminates a wealth of research that reveals what many parents already suspected. Children who spend ample periods of time outdoors in nature are healthier and less stressed. They exhibit greater cognitive ability, improved focus, and more self-control. They have greater self-esteem and are better problem solvers. In short, spending time outdoors in nature enhances your child’s development.

For more than 30 years the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s Nature & Environmental Summer Day Camp in Hopewell Township has offered the fun and fellowship of summer camp, the magic and inspiration of nature, and the timeless value of education about our environment. The aim is to connect the soul of the child with the heartbeat of the natural world – a connection critical to the growth, development and well being of our children.

From June 28 through August 19, children from preschool through ninth grade can enjoy a variety of environmentally themed weeklong camp sessions. Campers inhabit the Watershed Association’s 860-acre Nature Reserve, exploring field, forest, pond and stream. A typical day might include a morning search for insects in the field, a visit to the Kate Gorrie Butterfly House, an invent-a-bug session followed by, after lunch, a search for stream life. In some instances, campers may go on a field trip or camp under the stars.

To learn more, stop by the Summer Camp Open House at the Watershed Association’s Buttinger Nature Center (31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington) on Saturday, May 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. Meet Camp Director Tammy Love and the camp staff, visit the Buttinger Nature Center and the Kate Gorrie Butterfly House, explore the Watershed Reserve’s trails, and register on-site. Sibling and multi-week discounts are available.

If you can’t make the open house, stop by the Buttinger Nature Center, call at (609) 737-7592 or visit online at www.thewatershed.org.

Naturalist Jeff Hoagland has directed the Education Program at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association since 1984.

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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