Why Choose Our Camps?
Our Great Locations
Read more about Summer Camp Locations near you and use the map below to find driving directions.
What do you remember about nature from your childhood?
Likely it's about a special place that you would go and share with friends - making forts, climbing trees and more - all while getting muddy and wet, in all kinds of weather.
We bring these kinds of adventures to kids today, along with instructors who know a lot about nature and use great skill in reconnecting kids with the wonder of the world around them. We do this through stories, hands-on skills like fire-making, responsible introduction of wild edible plants and their poisonous look-alikes, as well as things most adults don't even know like the arts of wildlife tracking and bird language interpretation.
All of these skills are doorways into exploration of nature, and ultimately ourselves. The same confidence that kids acquire in learning about the hazards of nature and how to work with them translates into the rest of their lives and how they approach healthy risk-taking and learning in general. We look forward to the day when these kind of nature adventures are happening again spontaneously for kids in neighborhoods everywhere!
Summer Camps: Frequently Asked Questions
My grandchildren, they come all the way from Paris for your summer camps. In Paris they have art museums and castles, but they just love the wilderness experience. They see signs of bears and recognize pawprints… so we love your camps.-S.L.
1. What will my child learn at your camps?
2. What does a typical day at camp look like?
3. How are your staff members selected?
4. Are campers divided into age groups?
5. Can my child request to be grouped with their friends?
6. What happens in case of an animal sighting?
7. What food is provided at overnight camps and expeditions?
8. What emergency procedures do you have?
9. How will my child get medications during camp?
10. Is scholarship funding available?
A: Wilderness Awareness Summer Camps offer unique summer courses in which young people can embark on a fun-filled and adventurous journey into the mysteries of nature. Our focus on learning is for youth to gain an understanding and appreciation of the natural world, their community of students, and of themselves.
Our curriculum is all of nature, including hazards/basics–things that could be harmful to us and others, and what we need to do to avoid or resolve issues once they happen; tracking/mammals–Who lives here, and what can we tell about their lives from their tracks and sign even if we don’t see them directly?; Edible/Medicinal/Poisonous plants–How do you identify a plant using sketches, field marks, and field guides? What are the plants with poisonous look-alikes in our area?; Ecology/Natural Communities–What are the cycles that make up the smooth rhythm of the natural world, and what can we learn from them?; Survival/Trees–What trees provide shelter/food/tools/fire for us, and how?; and Birds and Bird Language–How can listening more closely to the birds help us stay safe from predators, and locate animals that pass nearby?
For all of our courses, fun and adventure are only part of the story. Important tangible and intangible skills like teamwork and communication; thankfulness; awareness; patience; common sense; self confidence; respect for self, each other and nature; and problem solving are woven invisibly into each day. For example, campers might learn patience through the need to get close to wildlife, or teamwork and communication through the need to quickly build a group shelter. Our focus is on helping campers to build skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
Our 1:5 staff-student ratio helps assure that our instructors can attend to the individual needs of every camper, and create opportunities for individual mentoring–guiding students through their own interests into experiences that nurture their connections to nature, and help develop greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world.
Overnight Camps and Expeditions
These courses feature real life challenges in the art of group wilderness living that blend seamlessly with engaging adventures and activities. Our small group sizes and highly trained staff ensure that campers get the quality personalized attention they deserve.
Campers come to know that they can care for themselves, successfully face difficult challenges and even set their sites on solving seemingly impossible problems. All of this learning is facilitated through a metaphor of reallife wilderness survival and group living challenges which includes intense practice of the awareness and survival skills of the ancient “scouts” of many cultures.
A: At 8:45 a.m. as everyone is arriving, we have active group games available on the field, as well as quieter options of hands-on inquiry into curious nature objects such as skulls, track casts, and more with field guides.
Shortly after 9 a.m., the entire camp gathers for morning circle which includes an animated and engaging thematic story told each day by a different staff member, and potentially songs or animal forms where campers learn to use their bodies creatively and understand how animals live.
By 10 a.m. campers join their “clans” (groups) which are sorted by age and experience for a morning and early afternoon of adventure, games, and survival skills. Groups usually eat a snack at about 10:30 AM and lunch around noon.
At 2:45, the clans are back at our starting spot. They have their final circles in which they are able to tell their favorite stories of the day, maybe get in a final game, and are ready to leave by 3 p.m.
From 8 a.m. until students arrive, our lead and volunteer staff are fine-tuning their plans for the day, and for their clan groups and individual students. From 3-4 p.m. each day, the staff and director debrief their day and share ideas to create an even stronger and more nurturing experience for everyone involved.
A: Our staff are a mix of salaried, seasoned, year-round field instructors with years of experience with youth and adults, as well as seasonal staff who have completed intensive training in our curriculum and our philosophy of education. Many instructors have completed our rigorous one-year Residential Program, as well as a second year of apprenticeship as a youth instructor.
When choosing the staff members to take part in a camp experience for children, we look for people who have a deep respect and love of children, experience in the outdoors, and a deep knowledge of the natural world and a passion to pass on their wonder and enthusiasm to others.
Training in the philosophy of the camp, team planning and coordination, are done before and after each camp for constant improvement, efficiency and contentment of the staff. Required first aid training and extensive criminal history background checks are done for all employees and volunteers.
A: Yes. Each of our Day Camp sessions has a maximum enrollment of 44 kids, ages 6-12. The campers are then divided by age into four groups of up to 11. So for example, if you were to enroll a 6 year-old child, they would probably be in a group with other 6 and 7 year-olds (the exact breakdown of age groups depends on how many children of what age enroll for that camp session). Each group of 11 has one lead instructor and an assistant instructor, so a staff-student ratio of about 1:5. All the campers and staff meet together for a story or other community activity once in a while, but most of the experience is within a smaller same-age group of kids, with instructors who really get to know each camper individually.
A: Yes. At the time of registration (whether you register on-line, or by phone), you can requestthat your child be grouped with one other child, provided they are enrolling in the same camp session. However, while we will do our best to accommodate these requests, we can not guarantee that this will occur. Note: campers are divided into age groups (see previous question), so only friends of very similar ages are likely to be grouped together.
A: Most of the animals we encounter are not threatening in any way. Part of each week is an introduction for all students in Cougar and Bear Awareness, and proper response to encounters. We have had rare sightings (that were all non-threatening) at our camps, and consider our awareness to be our most powerful tool in dealing appropriately with these encounters.
A: The meals we offer are designed to be healthy, nutritious, and delicious. For example, we provide organic food at our Overnight Camps and Expeditions because it is healthier, and often of higher quality than non-organic foods. Since tastes and preferences vary, we have a variety of nutritious food available at each meal. For special requirements, please contact us prior to your camp session.
Q: What emergency procedures does Wilderness Awareness School have in case of an accident or illness at camp?
A: The staff at Wilderness Awareness School’s camps are all trained in first aid procedures and CPR, with expedition staff also having Wilderness First Responders (WFRs) in their crew. We follow an established medical policy and procedure guide that is approved by a licensed physician each year. A full first aid kit is on site to take care of scrapes and bruises and for more serious injuries. First aid packs are carried by staff when out of reach of the main camp area. If further medical assistance is required, we will take the student to the nearest clinic or hospital from the camp and reach the parent for further directions.
A: The camp application requires the submission of a medical record form and emergency medical card to list any special allergies or medicines that any individual camper needs to take (see most of these medical forms). All staff has been trained to insure the timeliness, accuracy and application of medicines supplied by childrens’ physicians. Staff will discreetly dispense medication if prescribed by a physician, and provided by parents in its original container. Prior discussion with the director is required.
Q: Is scholarship funding available for children whose families are likely to require financial assistance?
A: Yes! As a not-for-profit organization, Wilderness Awareness School is thankful to our donors that allowed us to give over $5,000 last summer to support families in need of assistance to attend our camps. Click here for more information and our scholarship application form.
Have any additional questions for us?
Please don’t hesitate to contact us by email with further questions about our camps or other courses. Or call the office: 425-788-1301.