In the words of one youngster, “This was the best camp in the history of camps.” He was referring to one of the weeklong camps on offer again this summer through the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
The camps, led by Education Coordinator Sarah McGuire of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at VIMS, bring big smiles to more than 100 elementary and middle school students from in and around Gloucester County each year.
They are made possible by a gift from an anonymous private donor and the Ronald West Family Foundation to the VIMS Foundation. The camp program is funded to run for five years (2009-2013), and will celebrate its third summer this year.
During each of five weeklong sessions, campers get wet and muddy at sites around the Bay, from the VIMS Teaching Marsh to the Goodwin Islands and the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore. Depending on age, they explore marshes and wetlands; seine in the York River; handle a dip net; collect and examine birds, fish, and plants; use microscopes and field guides; and complete projects that will benefit the Bay.
Older, sleep-away campers head to VIMS’ Eastern Shore Laboratory, where they visit both the Bay and ocean side lagoons, canoe, bird watch, explore barrier islands and mud flats, collect animals, study dune ecology, and more.
Camp enrollment is by a lottery for the younger students and by a written essay for the older students, with camp size ranging from 15 students to 24 students per session depending on age. Feedback from parents and campers from previous years makes it clear that those selected are lucky campers indeed:
- “Thanks for getting my son really excited about something other than sports and video games.”
- “It was so fun and it changed my life. I can’t wait for the next one.”
- “It was one of my best times ever.”
- “Thanks for letting this camp exist. It’s the best camp ever. My favorite thing was everything”