Staff at the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation go to great lengths in their day camps to bring children in tune with nature.
However, low participation this summer has led staff to speak out and let the community know exactly what they do.
Ronnie Noonan, Environmental Education Summer Manager and Clare Kellock, Program Coordinator for Environmental Education and Climate Change, say their Earth Adventure Camps are part science, part theatre, part arts, and a little bit of magic.
The day camps started in 2013 and take place on Heckman's Island in a forested area of the Morton Centre property, rain or shine. There are camps for children aged six to eight and one for children aged nine to 12.
In both cases, however, it's the campers' full immersion into a specific story line that is important to getting children to understand and appreciate the natural world.
"Our story line's the hook," said Noonan.
Kellock said that the group gets so wrapped up in the story that they believe it's magic.
"They are now emotionally connected to this, they understand why it's important to care about it, so what can they do in their daily lives?" said Kellock. "They feel connected to the trees and the forest because we've done an activity where they become friends with the trees."
The camp's story lines make use of mythology to teach the kids environmental lessons. For example, "shapeshifters," magical beings that once lived in the forest and could take on many different forms, play a role in one of the lessons.
The kids also found "homes" for homeless animals that may have lost their habitats due to things like deforestation.
"The magic is just so tied into everything we do and it's just very structured," said Kellock.
This year, staff, who had not yet been introduced to the children, even took on the role of construction workers who were ordered to take down trees for a project. That gave the campers a chance to stand up for the forest and explain why it shouldn't be cut.
"This was towards the end of our camp and our kids were so into our story line that they were so angry at our coworkers for ever thinking they could come down and cut down the forest," said Noonan. "
"This was kind of like their final test, they had to prove to the construction workers that there was life here."
The older group's camps are full-day camps but also last a week. They have one overnight stay as a part of their program.
They say the benefits of the camps are huge and include reducing stress, increasing focus, relationship building but also about understanding that the Earth is limited and must be preserved for future generations. They try to teach that in a positive way.
"To have kids and youth build a connection with nature that will hopefully follow them into adulthood," said Kellock.
Although their attention is now turned to their upcoming after school programs, Kellock and Noonan wanted to speak out to let Lunenburg and the broader community know they exist and that they're hoping to come back stronger and expand more next summer.
Registration for the day camps is $75 for the week for the younger group and $125 for the older. The foundation is connected to PRO Kids, which helps provide funding for people who want their children involved in recreation.