Being active in nature makes kids happier,” says the National Environmental Education Foundation.
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 has 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.
With all this in mind, it is the commitment of all the organizations involved with the first Nature’s Garden Summer Camp at Phil Hardberger Park to continue providing a safe place each year for children to be happy and more active outside.