Monday, July 25, 2011

Beardsley Camp Overview

Urban Land Scout campers working on their books and buttons
Hello, hello,

Thanks to all our friends and sponsors for your generous support of Urban Land Scout camp. We met and surpassed our fundraising goal. Hooray! Not only were we able to offer camp for free to campers and parents, but we have enough money left over that we’ll be looking into similar fall programming as well.

We had eight campers from all corners of Knoxville. As you may or may not know, our original plan was to offer the camp to students at nearby Title I schools (where a high percentage of students receive free and reduced lunches). I had naively assumed that if we created a quality program and made it free, people would come running. Not so. Additionally, we were late getting our application materials into Knox County schools. As a result, our initial enrollment numbers were very low. In order to find more campers, we opened up the application process to any rising 5th, 6th, or 7th grader in Knox County. The children and parents who found us were great and we had a wonderful time. We were also blessed with great leadership in the form of my co-counselor, Kat Raese and our super-volunteer Brian Sohn.

Brian and Luke play a balancing game
Each morning we had breakfast (provided by Knox County) and then morning circle where we talked about the upcoming day and played games. Following morning circle, we helped out with some of the easier farm chores at Beardsley. Favorite chores included harvesting produce for Beardsley to donate and checking under the chickens to see if there were any eggs.

After chores, we got down to the business of earning our Urban Land Scout badges. During the course of the week we explored the park, mapped our homes, oriented ourselves with compasses, made and threw seed balls, collected wild edible plants, transplanted Holy Basil, made herb and lemonade popsicles, took herb clippings to root, and started seeds in the greenhouse. Most campers cited “learning about edible and useful plants” as their favorite activity. Seed collection was also a big hit. Thanks to a partnership with Community Television Knoxville, we were able to borrow flip video cameras for peer interviews. I hope to edit this footage together for a piece that will air on CTVK in the future.

Seeds ready for next year's planting
We wrapped up the day with lunches donated by the Tomato Head, a local restaurant known for its fresh and wholesome ingredients. Cruze Dairy Farm provided chocolate milk as a special treat on the last day. It was great to sit down, give thanks, and share a filling meal in the shade of a large oak tree. I think most of us-- counselors and campers -- went home every day and took a short nap. We were lucky in that the intense heat of the summer held off for the first three days. After that we stayed cool with water bottles, sun hats, and the occasional blast from the hose.

As I mentioned above, I hope to partner with area youth groups and communities to offer similar Urban Land Scout programming this coming fall. If you know of any communities in Knox County who might like to host Urban Land Scouts or if you would like to volunteer, please be in touch. Thanks again for your support of this project.

You can see photos from the camp here.

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