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Holding a summer camp is an excellent method for involving local people and promoting water education activities and projects. Program partners and students benefit in a variety of ways from their association with these types of camps.
Partnerships are a key to putting together an effective summer camp. Through a partnership different people and organizations work together to address common concerns and interests.
A partnership is the easiest way to develop and implement a successful summer camp because everyone is involved from the beginning. That means the ultimate plan will truly have the consensus of all parties who have a stake in the program.
In addition, partnerships often result in:
- More efficient use of financial resources
- A spirit of sharing and cooperation
- More effective and creative programming activities
Forming partnerships can be challenging. It takes time, skill, and patience to build successful partnerships. Maintaining motivation and enthusiasm is another challenge, especially if positive results don’t happen quickly. All the relevant stakeholders must believe their efforts are needed and their input valued. As you build local partnerships, you will encounter these and other challenges. Remember, the benefits of partnerships usually far outweigh the challenges.
In short, anyone and everyone could be included on your partnership wish list. However, your final list of partners might look something like this: local park districts, local public officials, area businesses, Cooperative Extension, local media, state agencies, schools, principals, teachers, parents, students, and soil and water conservation districts.
Here is a list of potential partners and the types of contributions they can make.
Local Media (television, radio, and newspapers): Coverage of camp program; Ability to get information out quickly
Agri-businesses & Industries: Funding for programs; Equipment and services; Informational literature
Environmental & Conservation Groups: Staff to conduct programming activities: Committed and knowledgeable volunteers; Awareness building information; Knowledge of environmental constituents
Local Elected Officials: Financial support for projects; Political leadership and credibility
Local Government Agencies: Financial and technical support; Staff to conduct programming; Source of information
Teachers: Source of information: Experts on working with children; Staff to conduct programming activities
Students: Assistance with camp duties; Staff to conduct programming activities
Students who participate and attend these camps are the real winners. They have the opportunity to meet and interact with resource professionals in a natural setting. Students gain valuable insight into conservation/environmental careers and what they entail. In many cases, students view these resource professionals as role models for their efforts in protecting and preserving our natural resources for future generations. They might consider pursuing a career in the environmental field as a result of attending one of these camps and talking with a naturalist, park manager, forest manager or a wildlife specialist.
Camps provide students with the opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills. For example, students learn how to apply concepts such as conservation practices in a natural setting. There are other benefits that are overlooked such as team building, multi-age teaching, and peer teaching. An example of multi-age teaching is 5th graders providing guidance and instruction to 3rd graders. Peer teaching (students in the same grade level) also occurs at these camps on a regular basis. Remember…education is the first step towards conservation of our land and resources.
Natural resources professionals also benefit by participating in a summer camp program. New partnerships and alliances are formed with principals, teachers, parents, park districts, elected officials, local businesses, and students. These new partnerships can open doors for new program opportunities and make existing programs even better. Personnel and financial resources are utilized more efficiently and effectively. When you consider these benefits individually or collectively, forming partnerships is the wise choice.
American Camp Association, www.acacamps.org
Also see Educating Young People About Water: A Guide to Unique Program Strategies. This guide provides brief case studies of 30 unique water education programs that have occurred around the country in a variety of settings including after-school clubs, summer programs, museums, nature center, festivals, and campaigns.