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NatureWay summer camp educates children environmentally

By Aleta Donald and Emma Brodey

Many clubs and activities operate under the radar at East. It is easy for smaller clubs to get lost in the chaos of club week, but they often provide vital innovation for the East community. One such club is NatureWay, a student-run organization that focuses on teaching children about nature and the environment through a yearly summer camp.

Senior Sam Vinogradov enjoys the great outdoors with students at NatureWay's summer camp.
Senior Sam Vinogradov enjoys the outdoors with campers.

Senior Corey Pahel-Short has been an active member of NatureWay for the past three years. She volunteers for the summer camp, which is completely financed through fundraising efforts made by NatureWay throughout the school year. This allows the camp to be completely free for the children to attend. One unique attribute of the club is that it is run entirely by students, who meet in Mr. Hartzog’s room weekly.

“We raise money, advertise, plan, and teach the kids for the camp,” said Pahel-Short.

“Each counselor is responsible for either teaching a lesson on an environmental problem or creating an activity. This past summer I wrote plays about invasive species for the kids to act out. It was adorable!”

Senior and NatureWay co-president Jenny Liu added to Pahel-Short’s explanation. “We had about seven [club members] helping out as counselors,” said Liu. “A few weeks prior to camp they created lessons and activities for the kids. The lessons were really amazing, everyone put a lot of time and effort into making the camp fun and educational, and the kids really enjoyed the counselors activities.”

Putting together this summer camp is a very rewarding experience for the members of NatureWay, and their camp is a great opportunity for local children to learn about environmental awareness.

“It’s very fulfilling being able to teach children about the environment and learn with them along the way,” continued Pahel-Short. “Kids leave the camp with a greater awareness of the impact of their actions on the environment. We emphasize simple ways for individuals to decrease their impact with the hope that the campers will utilize these strategies in their daily lives.”

Not only do the kids who attend NatureWay Camp camp learn great deal, they also have a lot of fun. The kids are even pushing for an extended camp experience.

“One [returning] camper this summer said, ‘I’ve been looking forward to this all year,’” said Pahel-Short. “This was then followed by requests from multiple campers to extend the camp to three weeks and make it a sleepaway camp. Unfortunately, the counselors have neither the funds nor the will to campout in Mr. Hartzog’s room for three weeks.”

Though, as Pahel-Short explained, NatureWay has no plans to extend the length of the summer camp in that direction, they are contemplating other expansions.

“We are hoping to start a new program this year where members of NatureWay help interested kids on more independent projects about the environment,” said Pahel-Short. “This is intended to let the kids pursue any topics they might want to know more about throughout the school year.”

NatureWay contributes a great deal to environmental awareness in the Chapel Hill community through its camp, and this year’s camp was a resounding success. Throughout this year NatureWay will be holding fundraisers and spreading awareness so that their camp can continue next summer.

“I think NatureWay is unique because we specifically target young kids,” Liu said. “Many environmental activist groups focus on adults to find support for, for example, legislative changes. The work of those organizations are very inspiring and integral to environmental protection, so we hope that by ‘recruiting’ kids when they are younger, they will become environmental activists as adults. Since habits form at a young age, we also hope to introduce the kids to ‘green’ habits that they will grow up with.”

Photo courtesy of Corey Pahel-Short

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