Not your average summer camp

For most folks, the term “summer camp” triggers memories of sunny canoe trips, popsicle-stick-and-paint crafts and “Kumbaya” around the campfire. At the North Carolina Arboretum, however, summer camp amounts to much more.

School’s in for summer: An orienteering group gets wild at last year’s Discovery Camps for Youth, which are hosted by the North Carolina Arboretum. courtesy North Carolina Arboretum

The Discovery Camps for Youth are a series of weeklong day-camps that cover even more ground than the trails and streams of the arboretum’s 426 acres of forested watershed. “It’s a university for kids and an amazingly diverse and beautiful place to learn,” says John Bubany, the arboretum’s director of youth programs. Features including an archaeological site, a weather station and a laboratory augment the land’s abundance of live specimens.

The summer program includes 22 science camps, from June 4 through Aug. 10, with beginner camps for grades two and three up to advanced camps for grades six and seven.

Each camp offers a specialized focus on the natural world. Growing Gardeners Camp, for example, will provide a beginner-gardening experience as participants prepare the arboretum’s first-ever children’s garden. In Nature’s Studio: Earth Art, the creatively inclined will study the bio-diverse landscape to find inspiration and raw materials for their own masterpieces. Heritage Adventure Camp will bring folklore and local history to life with re-enactment of 19th century village activities. And, for those with a serious interest in life in the wild, Wilderness Explorer will introduce advanced survival skills using outdoors equipment and a course in orienteering.

The mission of the arboretum, which is located in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, is to “cultivate connections between people and plants through creative expressions of landscape demonstration, education, economic development, conservation and research.” Discovery Camps play an integral part in pursuing that objective, says Bubany, who, in just one year, has seen youth programming expand from two free programs to an annual school-age visitation of 12,000-plus. The summer camps, he says, help “ensure [that] youth see the environment not as a commodity, but rather something to inquire about, wonder [about] and protect.”

For schedules, fee information and other details, see the Discovery Camps’ catalogue at or call John Marchal at 665-3570, ext. 228.

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