Day camp brings kids in touch with natural world around us

Westerly News EDITOR’S NOTE: Today the Westerly News kicks off the Westerly Nature Page, a page (pages) devoted to news about the amazing natural world around us on the West Coast.

ANDREW BAILEY Westerly News

Ucluelet’s youth upped their wilderness savvy last week thanks to a new summer camp designed to synch them with their surroundings. Jay and Shawna Roberts run a West Coast Nature Kids program that offers a variety of outdoor-learning opportunities including summer day-camp experiences.

Day camps are open to locals and visitors and teach kids how to build fires, create shelters and identify the West Coast’s wide array of animal and plant species.

Kids also learn teamwork and build their confidence through setting up and running through a natural obstacle course.

The first camp was held in Tofino in March and its success caught the attention of Ucluelet’s recreation programmer KK Hodder who saw it as a natural fit for local youth.

“Because of the environment that we live in, it’s absolutely important to be aware of your surroundings and aware of your environment and to appreciate our area in general,” she said.

“We didn’t have anything of that nature happening this year and we feel really lucky that we’re able to offer something like that… It really brings out a lot of confidence in them and awareness of their surroundings.” About 11 kids signed up for Ucluelet’s camp-with ages ranging from 7-12 years old-and had a blast.

“We get to do fun stuff,” said 11 year-old Kai Zylberman. “We went down to the beach and got to build shelters…It’s fun and I like doing it.”

“We’re having lots of fun,” said 8 year-old Vivian Jones. “When you aren’t at a camp you don’t really do this often so it’s fun because you can actually try to do something new.”

The Ucluelet day-camp ran for five days last week and was facilitated by Jay Roberts and Ucluelet’s summer camp leader Nick Holatko “Jay’s got a really good thing going on teaching these kids great West Coast skills and it seems like everybody’s been enjoying it so far; it’s been a really great week,” Holatko said.

“This program is really great because it’s teaching kids to live in harmony with nature and to explore their surroundings and create a bond with their surroundings and it brings them back in to their roots…and it’s doing it in a really fun safe environment.”

Roberts has a passion for the outdoors and designed the camp to infuse this passion into kids while raising their respect and understanding of their surroundings so they can fall in love with their environment the way he has.

“It’s about nature connection, getting kids outside away from their video games and televisions and into the forest,” Roberts said. “When they’re in the forest it allows them to become more connected to their place (and) to understand where they live and what is here.”

Along with the fun adventures found in the forest, Roberts said the camp also offers important survival skills to help kids get into their wilderness.

“These kids are right into that stuff, they love the survival skills and learning about wilderness awareness and they can get a real respect for nature and the whole conservation element can come into play,” he said.

“You love the place you live in therefore you love to take care of it…They’ll start to develop more respect and reverence for the place that the live.”

Hodder was thrilled to see the camp successfully launch in Ucluelet and hopes it becomes an annual staple in summer’s youth calendar.

“The feedback I’ve had from parents and kids has been extremely positive,” she said.

Roberts plans to launch a longerterm nature program in the fall and is looking for a place to provide the setting.

Anyone with extra space to donate towards educating local kids on their environment is encouraged to contact Roberts 250-725-2544. He said anyone who donates land to the cause will have their space taken care of by his young wilderness-savvy campers. For info check out www.westcoastnaturekids. com.