Applications & payment
Applications for the summer youth sessions may not be submitted before the registration period begins (Monday, February 8 in 2016), but there is no application deadline. Applications will be accepted on a “first come, first serve”
basis after registration begins and processed in order of date of postmark (for mailed applications) or date of submission (for e-mailed applications). Applications will continue to be accepted throughout the spring as space allows. Once a session fills, applications will be prioritized in order as follows: (1) returning campers, (2) new campers from the previous year’s waiting list, (3) other new applicants with scholarships, (4) relatives of past campers, and (5) random draw.
Applications may be submitted via standard U.S. mail or electronically via e-mail. There is no advantage to either option. The online option is provided as a convenience and because mail does occasionally get lost or misdirected. For information about both options please click here.
Yes, Nature Camp accepts all major credit and debit cards. If you submit an online application for enrollment, you have the option to pay the $150 deposit, full tuition, or a customized amount. It is also possible to make an additional payment for the balance of tuition (partial or full) once a camper has been accepted and enrolled. As a not-for-profit organization, however, Nature Camp strives to keep its operating costs as low (and year-to-year increases in tuition as small) as possible. Therefore we encourage you to pay the balance of tuition by check or money order if at all possible.
Communications & visitation
Nature Camp maintains a single telephone line for both voice and fax service. The number is 540-377-2491. If you need to send a fax, please call first and speak with someone, who can then make sure that the fax machine receives the transmission.
To allow campers to develop their own independence and self-confidence and to reduce the risk of homesickness, we discourage visitation, even from family members, during a session. Although there is no official visitation day during each two-week session, our experience has shown that visits during the middle weekend can cause or exacerbate homesickness, even among other campers. If family members do chose to visit, however, we request that you make arrangements in advance so that we are aware that you are coming and can inform you of the best times to visit. All visitors must check in at the Office upon arrival and obtain a nametag for the purpose of identification.
Campers are not permitted to use cell phones at Nature Camp for any purpose—making or receiving calls, sending or receiving text messages, accessing the internet, playing games, or using as a camera. We want campers to focus on their immediate environment—the natural world, their fellow campers, and the resident staff—during their two-week stay. Counselors are not permitted to use their own cell phones while on duty.
For reasons similar to those discouraging visitation, campers are not permitted to use the telephone except in the event of an emergency. Campers are presented with a range of stimulating activities throughout each day, and we encourage them to take full advantage of the opportunities to learn, make new friends, enjoy the outdoors, and experience personal growth. Phone calls interrupt these activities, take campers away from their peers, and preempt a line which may be needed for an emergency situation.
Campers are allowed to receive care packages, which may include cookies, brownies, and other snacks, as well as appropriate reading material or other items from home. Campers are not permitted to have soda or other sweetened soft drinks (whether caffeinated or not), so please do not include such items. Food items brought or received by campers are stored by the staff in a central location and cannot be kept longer than three days. This policy is necessary to avoid attracting mice and ants, and it reflects our limited storage space. Newly arrived care packages are distributed after supper so as not to interfere with campers’s appetite; we also restrict access to care packages during times preceding meals. In accord with our conservation focus, we strongly discourage the use of excessive and non-recyclable packaging. It can take several days for mail to reach Nature Camp, so please avoid mailing packages in the last few days of a session.
Whenever a camper has a birthday while at camp, s/he is serenaded with “Happy Birthday” and receives a special dessert at dinner. We don’t encourage cakes or other treats because it is difficult to provide enough for the entire group of nearly 90 campers. We also don’t have the means to keep for several days a cake left at the beginning of a session.
Staff selection & supervision of campers
Nature Camp staff members are required to submit a written application, provide three personal references (each of whom is checked), undergo both a criminal background check and a check of sex offender registries, and engage in a personal interview with the director. With very few exceptions, all staff members have graduated from high school and many are college graduates. We seek a balance of ages and degrees of experience; on average about one-third of the staff are new each summer.
The staff assembles a week before First Session begins for several days of training and preparation, including Red Cross certification in First Aid and CPR, risk management, child abuse prevention, behavior management, and official policy and protocol.
Campers are supervised by the staff throughout each day, from rising at Reveille to bedtime at Taps. Campers are not permitted to leave the camp premises without a staff member, and counselors staff the bunkhouses and educational building during all free periods. Staff are trained to ensure that campers are always within their eyesight or earshot.
Homesickness, especially among new campers in the younger sessions, is not uncommon. We encourage parents to emphasize to their children before they come to camp that it is perfectly normal to miss home and a familiar routine and set of surroundings. The staff pays particular attention to identifying cases of homesickness, listening attentively to campers, and attempting to get them involved in the full panoply of activities and to help them make new friends. We have found that acute cases of homesickness usually subside within three or four days, as campers get used to the daily schedule, the camp environment, and one another. If homesickness persists, a telephone call home may be warranted, but the initial contact with parents will always be made by the director or another staff member.
We do not tolerate bullying in any form—physical, verbal, psychological, or emotional. Staff are trained to recognize and respond to bullying, to diffuse conflicts when they arise, and to foster an atmosphere of cooperation and respect among campers. Disciplinary issues are documented, and campers whose behavior continually poses threats to others or negatively affects the experience of their peers may be asked not to return to Nature Camp. In extreme cases offending campers may be dismissed early.
Accommodations & belongings
Most campers bring clothing and other belongings in a footlocker or large suitcase or duffel bag which can be stored at the end of each bunk. (Footlockers can be more easily stacked than soft-shelled containers.) Bunks are 30 inches wide, but lower bunks have less than 10 inches of clearance underneath. Each camper shares a cubbyhole with her or his bunkmate, with a drawer (22 inches wide by 24 inches deep), shelves, and hangers for storage.
Mattresses measure 30 inches wide by 74 inches long. Nature Camp does not provide bedding for campers. Either a sleeping bag or sheets are acceptable, but some warm bedding is highly recommended, as nighttime temperatures in the 50s are not unusual during any session. A reusable or disposable mattress cover or pad is also recommended.
Many campers bring guitars, ukuleles, violins or fiddles, banjos or other musical instruments for use in the camper talent show or playing with friends during recreation periods. Please note that storage space in each bunkhouse is limited, although arrangements may be made to store large instruments in the office.
Campers spend a small portion of each day in the bunkhouses, and during most of that time they are sleeping or expected to be quiet. We encourage campers to make new friends and to expand their sphere of comfort, and hence we do not encourage campers to spend time just with existing friends. We will, however, endeavor to accommodate requests made in advance for campers to be placed in the same bunkhouse, although we cannot guarantee such placement or that pairs of campers will be able to share a bunk.
Campers and staff are not permitted to wear any footwear which is not fully closed at both the heel and toe, even when walking between a bunkhouse and bathhouse or to and from the swimming pool. This restriction is intended to protect each camper’s feet from possible injury from rocks, twigs, glass, or other potential hazards and to guard against the threat (however unlikely) of venomous snakes. The only exception is made for Closing Ceremony if sandals are an appropriate part of a camper’s semi-formal attire.
Classes, meals & other activities
On the first night of each session, campers are presented with an overview of the major classes offered. They then indicate their top four choices for a major class subject. Class size is capped at a maximum of eight campers to foster an effective learning environment and to allow instructors to give attention to individual campers. Hence not all campers may be enrolled in their preferred major class, but on average over 85% of campers receive their first or second choice, and no camper is placed in a major class s/he did not list as one of the top four choices.
We take great pride in preparing and serving three balanced and varied meals a day using as many fresh and local ingredients as possible. Typical offerings include pancakes, muffins, French toast, oatmeal, and bacon and eggs for breakfast; grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, quesadillas, macaroni and cheese, and hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch; and spaghetti or ravioli, chili, pot roast, fried chicken, and pulled pork barbeque for supper. Some fruit or vegetable is served at every meal, and vegetarian and vegan options are always available. Campers are encouraged to at least sample every dish and to expand their culinary horizons.
For more information about Nature Camp’s deliberate efforts to secure local food sources and to read about some of our suppliers, please click here.
Meals provide an opportunity for campers to make new acquaintances rather than to sit only with their friends. On the first evening of a session, campers randomly choose numbers corresponding to tables, at which sit one or two staff members. Table assignments change two other times during a session to allow campers a chance to get to know other peers.
After lunch campers return to their respective bunkhouses for rest period. During this time they may sleep, read, work on class projects, write letters, or play games, but they are expected to remain quiet and in their bunks. Rest period lasts for about an hour and is followed by a 45-minute canteen period before afternoon class.
There are three recreation periods during the day, between morning class and lunch (approximately 90 minutes), between afternoon class and supper (two hours and 15 minutes), and between supper and evening program (90 minutes to two hours). During these times campers may choose from a variety of organized activities, including hikes led by the staff and sports and games on and around the recreation field, or elect to spend time socializing with friends. If the weather is favorable, the swimming pool is open during rec periods and staffed by certified lifeguards. Campers may also visit the educational building to work on class projects, and one ancillary lesson that campers learn is how to balance their time between academic and recreational pursuits. Except during inclement weather, campers are encouraged to spend time outdoors during rec periods and not to remain in the bunkhouses.
Shorter free periods take place between breakfast and morning class (30 minutes) and between rest period and afternoon class (45 minutes). No hikes are offered during these times, nor is the educational building open.
Campers take turns performing various duties during the session, including setting tables for meals, cleaning the bunkhouses and bathhouses (“T-houses”), and gathering the day’s garbage and recyclable materials. These duties take place during recreation periods and other times between scheduled activities.
Short chapel services are held in the Reeves Memorial Chapel on Sunday evenings and before breakfast on the middle Sunday of each session. The Closing Ceremony on the final Friday evening takes place in the chapel, as does the final assembly of each session on the last Saturday morning. These events are non-sectarian and not overtly religious, but they do provide an opportunity for the staff to present inspirational and thought-provoking messages. Campers are expected to attend these and all other events during a session. Formal attire is not required, although campers are asked not to wear dirty or sweaty clothing to chapel services. The exception is for Closing Ceremony, where one’s best attire is appropriate.
Canteen (Camp store)
The canteen stocks food such as candy bars, ice cream, and fruit juice; Nature Camp merchandise, including T-shirts, water bottles, and bumper stickers; pens, pencils, paper, stationery, and stamps; toothpaste and other toiletry items; and miscellaneous supplies, including batteries and disposable cameras. The canteen is open three times a day (after breakfast, after rest period, and after supper). Campers may purchase no more than three items of food at a time and are not allowed to buy candy or ice cream immediately after breakfast. Occasionally fruit (such as apples, peaches, or plums) from the kitchen is available free of charge.
On average campers deposit $40-50 each.
Campers are not permitted to keep their own money at camp, as there is nothing to purchase except in the canteen. Instead, campers deposit funds into an account at the canteen at the beginning of the session. Canteen accounts are updated twice during each session so that campers may know how much money remains in their accounts. Any remaining funds are returned at the end of the session. Overdrafts are not permitted.