Tulsa Summer Camps : Outdoor Classroom

Michael Staires: Hello. My name is Michael Staires, and I’m the Summer Camp Director at Camp Loughridge. I’m here today talking about Tulsa Summer Camps, specifically, Camp Loughridge. I want to talk to you about what we have to offer out there. We do summer day camps from June 5th all the way through August 4th for kids who are six years old all the way up through 12. Then a leadership development program for 13, 14, and 15-year-olds called the Loughridge Crew.

I want to talk to you this morning about something I’m very excited about. We are going to be offering in our summer day camps at the Tulsa Summer Camps, Camp Loughridge, this summer, we’re going to be offering the traditional day camp type activities like archery and canoeing, arts and crafts, group games, swimming, of course, in our beautiful Aquatic Center. We’ll offer all of these more traditional activities, but we also have activities that are going to be maybe a little bit out of the box especially for kids this age.

We’ve got high ropes course elements where kids learn confidence, and they learn to overcome their fears. Low ropes course elements where kids learn teamwork and learn about how they fit in the world around them. But I want to talk to you specifically today as we discuss Tulsa Summer Camps, I want to talk to you specifically about an exciting, bringing together of Camp Loughridge, our summer day camps, along with the outdoor classroom which is the outdoor education program that Camp Loughridge offers to Tulsa area schools throughout the school year.

A lot of people don’t realize that Camp Loughridge hosts hundreds of fifth graders from around the City of Tulsa, Jenks, Bixby, Broken Arrow and the surrounding area that come to Camp Loughridge for an outdoor education experience. It’s an incredible experience that goes right along with the Science and Biology curriculum that the teachers are offering at the time, but it provides this wonderful outdoor laboratory for kids to get their hands dirty, if you will, and actually participate in some very, very interesting programs.

I’m excited to say that we are bringing some of that programming to bolster and to enhance our summer camp programming. Not only will kids who come to Camp Loughridge and also Camp Patriot at Camp Loughridge have the opportunity to participate in some very traditional camp activities, they’ll also have the opportunity to participate in this outdoor classroom kind of outdoor opportunities. One of the things that I’m excited about, I talked to Sheryl who oversees our outdoor classroom, and we’re putting together now a couple of very interesting workshops.

One is going to be Nature’s Detective where kids will be on a hike and they’ll happen upon a tableau or a scene. Maybe it’ll be a tree stump where there’ll be acorns that have been cracked open, and it’s obvious that a squirrel or some kind of animal has had a meal there. They will be like CSI detectives, and they will deduce what happened. They’ll be lead by questions through by our naturalist to discover what has happened.

What a great opportunity for kids to learn in an outdoor laboratory-type setting. Another thing we’re excited about, we don’t even really have a name for this yet, but we want to get kids in our creek, the creek that flows into the lake with a seine which is a net. Kids will seine that creek and then bring the net up and see what all they caught. Everything from crawdads to minnows to creek bugs to who knows what all, and they will identify those things, and they will learn about life in the creek and learn about God’s creation in such a very interesting way.

What a great thing to not just have kids learning on their own, but also guided by a trained naturalist. Now, the difference maybe is that the naturalist knows that they’re not there necessarily to just impart information. In other words, they’re certainly not in a lecture mode where they’re just talking to kids about what’s going on in nature, but rather, they’re there to ask probing questions and to allow kids to discover these things on their own, and they guide the discussion around, and they provide answers, certainly, but they really want to probe into the child’s mind and allow the child to feel this joy of discovery.

Which is much more impacting as far as a learning situation than it would be if the teacher is just lecturing to a class of kids. Instead of this lecture kind of one-way communication, it’s a conversation about the experience that the child seems to be having at the moment with the naturalist able to answer questions, but also, like I said, ask a lot of questions to draw these things out.

This is a learning model that we use not just in nature, but also in almost everything we do at Camp Loughridge. We are unique among Tulsa Summer Camps in that we are intentional about the things we’re teaching. Although a lot of people use us, use Camp Loughridge as a most excellent day care option, I want to be quick to point out that Camp Loughridge is much more than just a daycare. Much more than just a babysitting service that you are able to drop your kids off at the first part of the day and pick them up at the end of the day.

Camp Loughridge is a valuable learning experience, and not just educationally but socially and spiritually. Then we use this model of probing questions and leading by example, and teaching by example, and providing experiences for kids’s hearts to be opened up where they’re asking questions back to their councilors who we believe are more like mentors.

A lot of camps, I believe, Tulsa summer camps, might provide councilors who are really more like moderators or sponsors that are really just trying to keep kids safe going from point A to point B, but at Camp Loughridge which is one of the best Tulsa summer camps, we see councilors as actual guides that are walking their kids through this valuable experience of learning every day.

In addition to kids participating in traditional summer camp experiences like archery and arts and crafts, and canoeing, hikes and games, and things like that, they’ll also be able to do these very, very interesting outdoor classroom activities that we offer routinely throughout the school year but there’s not really been that effort to bring the outdoor classroom curriculum into the summer camp program as much and we’re excited to be able to do that this summer.

We have three full-time naturalists on our staff that, like I say, work with school all across the city and the community, and they see hundreds of school kids throughout the year. But this year, we’re going to integrate these great naturalists into our summer camp program and allow kids who come to camp to be exposed to some of the great outdoor education opportunities.

Camp Loughridge sits on about 180 acres, and it’s a great piece of property that includes woods and lakes as well as open fields and lots of wildlife. It’s a very, very serene place and you’d never know that you could get that much country just five minutes west of Tulsa Hills up on top of the hill on West 71st Street. Camp Loughridge has been around for many, many years but we’re excited about a rebirth of understanding our spiritual mandate to not just teach about God, but to introduce kids to the wonder and the awe of a holy creator who created not just the trees and the lakes and the rocks and the animals, but also created them and made them to be very unique and special as well, born with a purpose to fulfill.

I think once the kid understands that and can put themselves, understand their own purpose, and understand maybe how they fit together with the world at large, it’s a very, very valuable experience especially to the age group that we see most often. These are ages 6 through 12, and then a leadership development program called Loughridge Crew for kids who are 13, 14, and 15.

I hope you’ll take advantage of this, and send your kids to camp this summer. You can find us at camploughridge.org. Thank you.

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