Nature Makes Kids Happy
Nature's Garden Summer Camp
Being active in nature makes kids happier,” says the National Environmental Education Foundation.1
Nature’s Garden Summer Camp was first offered at Phil Hardberger Park in 2014. Fourteen elementary aged children, 7 -10 years old, participated by exploring nature and learning natural science principles while doing fun outdoor activities. This camp was a combined effort of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Center, the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Natural Areas and the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy. Volunteers from the Bexar County Master Gardeners and the Alamo Area Master Naturalists also provided numerous hours of assistance in making the camp a wonderful experience for the participants.
Various topics during camp included learning about vegetable gardening, trees (inside and out), soils, geology, the water cycle, insects, spiders and mammals. Children engaged in a variety of nature related activities. They explored trees and plants on a nature walk each day, investigated mineral and mammal scenes, considered predator-prey relationships and made personal gardens out of recycled soda bottles. While the children had fun outside learning about nature, the parents appreciated the camp’s educational value. The National Environmental Education Foundation states that kids spend more than seven hours a day with various electronic media. It also been shown that even a 20 minute walk in nature can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) concentrate better. In addition, exposure to nature can reduce stress levels by as much as 28% in children. 2
With all this in mind, it is the commitment of all the organizations involved in providing the first Nature’s Garden Summer Camp at Phil Hardberger to continue providing a safe place each year for children to be happy and more active outside.
Phil Hardberger said it best in 2006 when he hugged a large, heritage live oak near the Voelcker Homestead, “This would be a great place to preserve for families to enjoy nature for the future.” With the first summer camp and those that followed, this vision of establishing Hardberger Park as a center for educating children about nature and science came to fruition and it continues. Since opening in 2010, this 300-plus acre natural area in the middle of San Antonio has continued to touch many lives, including children. Hardberger Park is a place where children are happier learning about nature, whether walking, bicycling or running on the trails, or participating in educational programs such as the park’s nature camp.
Registration is open for the 2017 summer camps at Hardberger Park.