NATURE CONNECTIONS: How a Summer Camp Helps Kids Connect with Nature and Each Other

Each summer 4,500 kids from the south metro area of the Twin Cities head outdoors. Coming from under-resourced communities, these children and youth will be connecting to nature through the outdoor programming efforts of the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. Many of these campers will be connecting to nature for the first time. As the Camp & Outreach Director, this makes me proud. With a majority of Americans now living in cities, there has never been a greater need to ensure that young people are meaningfully and intentionally exposed to nature. And it’s especially important that young people spend time in natural spaces that are close by, which we call “nearby nature.” Our day camp offers our campers that opportunity. We know that when a child has an immersive experience in nature, they’re given a unique opportunity to support personal and interpersonal growth. It turns out that nature-based programming is the perfect platform for youth development and character, also called Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). We understand that all learning is social and emotional. Our core values of honesty, caring, respect, and responsibility are the cornerstone of our programming for engaging young people. But there’s one thing we have learned: supporting SEL […]