Birds, bats and burns: All in a day’s play at Camp Sepawonuk
With the cold weather creeping into the northeast, we thought we would take a moment to reflect back on the warm, sunny and playful days of going to summer camp. Our staff in the field often partner with Native American Tribes on wildlife biology and conservation projects. The partnership we highlight today is one that is also critical to the work we do as an agency: connecting young people to nature. Read how a group of Passamaquaddy youth are learning and growing with the help of experts in the field of wildlife conservation.
Summer camp is a ritual, a rite of passage, for many kids growing up today. Exploring the outdoors, getting dirty and spending time with friends is a big part of what draws kids to wanting to go back each year. And the same holds true for Passamaquoddy middle school students from Pleasant Point and Indian Township, Maine, who attended Camp Sepawonuk this past summer as part of an outdoor education partnership among Maine Indian Education, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge.
Camp Sepawonuk (the Passamaquoddy word for tomorrow) is a summer workshop that focuses on natural resource and outdoor education programs, and introduces 6th through 8th grade students to a variety of conservation topics and natural resource careers. Staff from both Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge and MIT teach the students about microbiology, forest succession, the science behind prescribed burns, fighting wildfires, American woodcock biology and the impact of white-nose syndrome on Maine’s bat populations.
This past summer marked the second year the camp was held at the refuge and surrounding natural areas of eastern Maine. When asked what they liked best about the camp two students from Pleasant Point said they loved exploring the outdoors and working with staff and students from MIT. The campers enjoyed taking trips to Sand Dollar Beach on First Island and to Eastport, Maine, where they saw and touched jellyfish. Participating in hands-on learning experiences in nature is a big draw for most of the students. Another favorite activity for many campers was learning how to use archery equipment.
Students enjoy the week-long camp experience, and refuge and MIT staff love getting to share their passion for the outdoors and knowledge about the natural world. It is a win- win for everyone involved in the program.
The program is made possible by the generous support of the Trust in Diversity and Exchange Foundation, as well as the time and expertise of staff and students from the refuge and MIT.
Plans are in the works for next year’s camp session, with a number of students eagerly awaiting the days until they can spend time outside learning and exploring.