Eco Camp – 3 Down, 1 to Go!

2018 was designated the Year of the Bird by the National Audubon Society, so Birds of a Feather seemed like a natural theme for this year’s Eco Camp. With August now upon us, we have just one camp left. Our first three camps were a huge success and so much fun was had by all!

There are favorite activities that we do every year with each group. The week always starts with introductions, making name buttons, and tie-dying our themed t-shirts. This year, each group also made a version of the bird that was their mascot for the week to put up on our Eco Camp wall.


For the second year, we were able to take our three oldest groups to the lake! This was a great day with swimming, kayaking, yard games, and jumping off the dock. Each week ends with the campers’ family and friends gathering Friday afternoon to see what the kids have been doing all week. The campers turn into the counselors, with an opportunity to teach their families all about campus and the weeks’ activities!

1st-2nd Grade – Nature Nuthatches

Our 14 Nature Nuthatches were a lively group that made every day fun and exciting! We started camp with a tour of campus, our favorite snack – Moose Lips, a bird banding activity where the campers made a band, in this case, a bracelet, which helped us identify certain facts about each camper, and wrapped up with the ever-popular papermaking.


The week continued with homemade bath bombs, bird Olympics, and a nature walk. Each camp takes a field trip, so our 1st and 2nd graders went up to Paws and Claws Animal Rescue in Hackensack where they toured the facility, met and played with some of the furry residents, made chew toys from recycling for the cats and dogs, and learned about the building’s solar installation. We also stopped at the park in town for lunch and some play time.

3rd-4th Grade – Sustainable Sparrows

This camp had 12 girls and only 2 boys, although that didn’t seem to bother them at all! The campers got crafty using recyclable items such as toilet paper tubes and cereal boxes to make their own cardboard creations, which were so fun to see. The week continued with a Venn diagram activity about reptiles and amphibians, and a lesson on raptors followed by Nightstalker, a game about owls and prey.

For their field trip, we traveled down to Northland Arboretum in Brainerd. We started our day there with a bird walk led by local birder Judd Brink. The campers helped Judd check the bluebird nesting boxes that he monitors and spied many different birds along the way. After lunch on the porch, we learned about some different animal tracks, then took a walk to see what tracks we could find. Before we returned to campus we went on a tree id scavenger hunt in the woods.

5th-6th Grade – Conserving Chickadees

This oldest group of campers were an incredibly fun-loving, considerate, and helpful bunch! After a lesson on true flight vs. gliding, the kids designed gliders which we tested out by throwing them off the living roof of the mani shop. We ventured to the roof the next day, as well, after the campers, working in groups, designed a vessel to keep an egg from breaking when dropped from the roof. With the age of this group, we were also able to walk to town, geocaching along the way, then fish at the dam with pop can fishing reels we made earlier that morning.

We headed to Deep Portage Learning Center in Hackensack for this field trip. Once there, we ventured to the rock wall where the campers tried their hand at climbing. After lunch, we walked to a small lake where we honed our paddling skills in canoes. While out there, we saw lots of bugs, fish, and even some turtles. From there, we climbed the observation tower for an amazing view of the countryside, with some of the campers overcoming their fear of heights to get to the top!

Our final PreK-Kindergarten camp starts on Monday and more fun is sure to be had!

Screen Free Week Observations

Last week children, families, entire schools, and communities across the nation participated in Screen Free Week, endeavoring to not use any screens during non school and work hours. That meant no smart phones, no video games, no TV, no computers, no screens of any kind. Several of us here at Happy Dancing Turtle participated as well, including me and my two daughters, 8 year old K, and 6 year old B.

Screen Free Week started on Monday, April 30, so the Saturday before that I told them all about it and that we would be participating. This news was met with some protest and with the girls watching TV or using their tablets every spare second they could! On Monday, I had an afternoon appointment, so their grandma picked them up from daycare and brought them home. When I arrived home, the girls were happily playing outside on the swing set. After a quick supper, we all headed back outside. The girls rode the go kart with their dad while I putzed around the yard. We headed in at 8:00 and got them ready for bed. After they were in bed, I turned to the giant pile of laundry that had amassed over the past week and got everything folded and put away. With the little time I had left until my bedtime after that massive undertaking, I finished a book I had started a few days before.

Continue reading