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Getting Outdoors This Summer
Growing up I could not wait for summer to arrive. For me this meant family camping trips, fishing with my dad, or just simply playing outside with the neighborhood kids. Unfortunately, today many children spend their summers sitting indoors at computers, playing video games, or watching television. These kinds of activities are no replacement for the fresh air, exercise and learning that takes place outdoors interacting with nature.
As an educator, I know there are real benefits from outdoor experiences. Getting outdoors allows you to connect with the place where you live. Whether exploring an empty lot next to your home, or taking a trip to the beach, nature is all around you. Recently, I spent a morning with my daughter building a fort in the woods near our home (a classic past-time too often replaced by pre-built elaborate playground equipment). In designing the fort, my daughter had to determine what sticks would make good supports for the frame and what type of trees might provide the best cover for the roof. Recognizing an active learning opportunity, I explained the variety of flora that surrounded us—answering why leaves from a palm tree are shaped differently than leaves from those of the sweet gum tree. Inside the fort while playing “tea time,” I shared how to make real tea from certain roots and leaves. My daughter, 5 years old, just enjoyed the fact that we were playing. Yet, by “going on an adventure” out-of-doors, we also shared the joy of becoming more familiar with the world around us.
Outdoor experiences increase interest in learning and help children become more efficient learners. As UNCW MarineQuest Director, I’ve been given the opportunity to engage thousands of children with that great big outdoor laboratory we like to call an ocean! Whether fishing, wading, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, or just walking on the beach collecting shells, young campers are actively learning while having fun. Every day is a new adventure. I am always amazed at how engaged children become when given the chance to explore in nature. Even kids who generally don’t enjoy school become enthusiastic when learning outdoors. As one parent put it, “MarineQuest has had an unbelievable influence on our son’s life...and it has all been good! The outdoor classes and events, the staff and the educational value are more than I ever could have imagined.”
This season, I invite you to dive into summer with UNCW Youth Camps! Our MarineQuest program offers a wide variety of opportunities to be active, learn, and enjoy nature. We specialize in providing academic enrichment through outdoor opportunities. MarineQuest offers weeklong half-day, full-day and single gender programs that provide hands-on, field-based learning that encourages self-discovery in children and youths aged 5-17 years. This summer, give your child or young adult the opportunity to connect with the place where you live: a week to kayak in the marsh, enjoy studying aquatic invertebrates while snorkeling, discover the fascinating plants and animals that live on floating docks, or go scuba diving among a world-class collection of offshore wrecks. For a complete listing of programs, visit MarineQuest at www.uncw.edu/marinequest or give us a call at 910.962.2640.
Jeremy Burnett, MarineQuest Director, MBA, and BS in Outdoor Education and Environmental Science.