At Fontenelle Forest’s summer camps, imaginations run wild, and campers spend their days immersed in nature and everything it has to offer.
For nearly 30 years, the forest has been hosting nature discovery day camps that allow students to explore the wetlands and forest while learning about the ecosystem in their outdoor classroom.
All 12 camps feature science-based learning through interactive lessons and activities. Each camp is taught by Fontenelle Forest’s year-round professional educators.
Camps are available to children ages 4 to 12 and center on hiking in the wilderness and studying insects and other creatures.
Camps are held at various locations including Camp Brewster, Fontenelle Forest and the forest’s wetlands. Each session hosts 10 to 30 campers depending on the age group.
The small numbers allow for more hands-on activities and experiences, said Deborah Woracek, naturalist and camp coordinator.
“The kids get a different experience in the forest than if they come with a school group,” Woracek said. “There’s more opportunity for exploring.”
Some camps are open to both the young and the young at heart. Grands and Me camps are available to children ages 4 to 8 and their special guests.
These sessions allow for one-on-one time between grandparents and their grandchildren.
Each camp has a theme, and all activities that campers participate in relate to it in some way. Last year, Grands and Me campers learned about the prairie and the creatures that inhabit it.
After starting the day with an interactive lesson about animals that live on the prairie, camper-and-grandparent pairs embarked on a prairie sky hunt.
Their list of creatures to find included ladybugs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, bumblebees and turkeys.
After an exhilarating butterfly and moth hunt, campers got up close and personal with an American kestrel named Adalina. The North American falcon is native to the local prairie.
Barb and Denny Teymer attended camp for the first time last summer with their grandson, Ismael. The Council Bluffs natives are members of the Fontenelle Forest Nature Assocation.
“Going out and sharing the experience with Ismael was our motivation to come to camp,” Barb Teymer said.
Popular camps tend to be repeated annually, but curriculum offerings change.
“There’s an educational part but it’s also fun. They (children) don’t realize they’re learning,” Teymer said.