Monday, April 28, 2008

Getting Back to Nature

It's that time of year for parents with school age children to contemplate the question: what are we going to do with the kids during the summer months to stave off mid-summer boredom (and parental insanity)?

My fondest memories as a child are filled with the sensations of summer camp in California - I can still sing plenty o' camp songs, I remember tree climbing, the cool "cute" counselors and my favorite day of the week: Thursdays at the beach!

Here in Charlottesville, we may not have a beach, but we have lots of great camp options.

The first thing I did when choosing a camp was to grab a copy of Albemarle Kids magazine and highlight the camps that offer my kids opportunities to connect with nature. I want my kids to learn and understand the natural world while treading lightly. There are a handful of camps (which hopefully will appear in the fall in a new "kids section" in the directory) and so for me, because I want to minimize driving, it was easy to narrow the camps down to ones in our vicinity of the 'ville.

So today I had the pleasure to sit down with the dynamic, energetic Program Director at Triple C Camp of Charlottesville, Ryan DeRose, who is leading the charge with exciting new "green" improvements he's been working on since January, when he first arrived.

Triple C is owned and operated by a great family, has a great location, is accredited (which means it's recognized and licensed by the state, which means they've got a quality staff and safety standards) and enjoys a great reputation in the community. I was curious if their respect for nature also played out in their business practice.

I was delighted to learn from Ryan and Libby and H and their crew have always had in their core philosophy a respect for the surroundings and a tread lightly policy. IN addition, though, this year they have chosen even greater steps to ensure that the kids, the counselors, and the rest of the staff tread EVEN lighter on the Earth!

Here's what's going green at Triple C

*The installation of 10 rainwater barrels will collect over 1,000 gallons of water for use in the gardens, washing muddy feet, watering the horses, (and possibly installing water toilets at a later date)

*Ryan has also put in five "lasagna gardens". No he's not growing fusilli pasta, but a variety of veggies. The "lasagna" refers to the laying of the groundwork for the garden - it's made up of a layer of newspaper, hay, raw compost, chopped leaves, manure, and wood chips. This is a no-till garden that will be a great educational tool for the kids.

*Triple C has 300 kids a day eating 1 big lunch and 2 snacks. In the past that has generated lots of trash so the first thing they've done is implementing batch composting for the organic waste.

*No more styrofoam and other disposables!! The bad stuff, gone. Instead kids will embrace the reuse philosophy for their lunchware and water fountains have been installed with water collectors.

*Also, the recycling bar has been raised. Kids will be bringing all the recyclables generated at the camp at the McIntire Center every Wednesday!

Future plans include a solar hot water heater and a composting toilet.

I believe these changes have a potential to not only help the camp have a lower impact on the environment, they will also get the kids excited and more motivated to change. Check out the or

If you are a parent who knows of a wonderful nature/science camp here in Charlottesville or Albemarle County and are willing to blog about it, please email me at


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