Adult Session 2017 Information

“Then and Now: 75 Years of Nature Camp–How Our Understanding of and Relationship to the Natural World Have Changed Since 1942″

18-22 August 2017

2017 marks Nature Camp’s 75th anniversary, and while Adult Session has been an annual program for barely a third of that period, this year’s session offers a fitting opportunity to consider how our state of knowledge of science and natural history, as well the concepts of environmentalism and stewardship of the Earth, have evolved over the past three-quarters of a century. Although the mission of Nature Camp remains essentially unchanged–to inspire a commitment to conserve and properly care for our shared natural resources through directed, immersion experiences in the natural world–what we know about the natural world and hence what we teach at Nature Camp have changed markedly. For example, in 1942 the field of geology did not have the paradigmatic foundation provided by the theory of plate tectonics, the structure of DNA had not yet been elucidated, and fungi were still classified as plants. Moreover, formerly dogmatic ideas have been upended–we now know, for instance, that fire is a critically important process in some ecosystems, not simply a destructive force that should always be suppressed–and significant environmental challenges such as global climate change and the loss of biodiversity have emerged that could hardly have been envisioned in 1942. This year’s session will not only take a look back to consider what has changed, but will also explore the role that Nature Camp specifically and environmental education in general can and should play in the 21st century.

The preliminary schedule of classes includes

  • Our Evolving Understanding and Management of Forests
  • Geomorphology and Paleoclimate
  • Sounds of Autumn
  • Making Dogwood Charms from Bronze Metal Clay
  • Wetland Management Then and Now
  • Making Toy Bows and Arrows
  • What Feeder Watch Data Tell Us About Bird Populations
  • Appalachian Food Then and Now
  • Fermenting 101
  • Climate Change Past, Present, and Future
  • Ancient and Modern Uses of Plants
  • Decline and Recovery of Birds of Prey
  • Ice Dyeing
  • Citizen Science and Technology
  • Botany
  • Nature Drawing
  • Haiku
  • Mosses and Liverworts
  • Cloudspotting
  • Flying Things
  • Homebrewing 101

Other planned activities include:

  • Workshop on Appalachian string-band music
  • Morning birdwalks
  • Evening stargazing
  • Evening walks for salamanders
  • Sharing of favorite nature books
  • Invasive plant removal
  • Folk-singing
  • Short hikes around Nature Camp and the vicinity
  • Discussion about the future of local environmental education

Plus a day-long field trip on Monday, August 21, will explore the sinkhole pond complex known as Maple Flats in Augusta County, near Lyndhurst. This landscape supports populations of several rare and disjunct (geographically isolated) plants and animals and constitutes one of the most ecologically significant natural areas in western Virginia. The habitats of the sinkhole ponds at the base of the Big Levels plateau are in many ways more similar to those of the Coastal Plain rather than the mountains. Many of the ponds hold several feet of water early in the growing season but dry completely by August. We will investigate a number of the ponds, learn about their formation and hydrology, discuss the history and management of the surrounding forest, and identify the resident flora and fauna. A picnic lunch will take place at nearby Sherando Lake, where Nature Camp began in 1942.  An optional extension of the trip in the afternoon may visit additional sinkhole ponds in the area.