Outdoor activities for children seem to be dwindling leaving adults to wonder how to engage their young ones in a healthy way and most importantly to distract them from being glued to television and computer. Hence summer camps such as expeditions, wildlife safaris, or any outdoor sport keep children occupied the healthy way as well as get them out to explore Nature. Mr. Conan Dumenil and Mr. Gerry Martin explain the focus of The Gerry Martin's Project with The Young Naturalist Camp and share their experience on the positive impact camps have on children.
Q. How did the The Gerry Martin Project come about? Tell us something about The Young Naturalist Workshops?
A - The Gerry Martin Project has evolved from years of work with both people and wildlife. There is a very strong foundation in education, including curriculum design with a focus on experiential learning. Our wildlife roots go back about a decade and a half now with various research and conservation endeavours under our belt. Today, TGMP's focus is on conservation using education and experience.
Q. What goes into the planning of a camp?
A - Every camp starts with an objective we aim to achieve. Our activities are then planned around these objectives. We develop a curriculum for each of these camps and use the latest field techniques and science.
Q. What are the activities involved? Which ones are kid's favourites?
A - Our camps and workshops focus on various aspects of ecology ranging from Reptile biology, rainforest ecology, large game and birds, Island ecology and herpetology foundation courses. Based on these, activities run are stream exploration, game tracking, radio-telemetry, pit-fall traps, Bird watching, reptile captive management, tree-canopy access, scuba diving and snake-bite management protocol to name a few.
Q. Who decides the activities? Why are these activities chosen in particular?
A - Our camps have specific learning objectives. We then work backwards, planning what sort of dialogue we need to have. We then figure out what sort of scenarios would bring about that dialogue and finally plan and design activities that would create those scenarios.
Q. How are the children productively occupied? What do they get from it?
A - These workshops provide the kids with two important things. Firstly a right context to interact with the natural world and secondly, a skill set to explore it safely and responsibly. We use an exploratory model, which gives the kids an informed platform to learn for themselves. This in fact is more productive as it allows the kids to do things at their own pace and comfort levels.
Q. How do these adventurous camps impact their personality and general well being?
A - These workshops revolve around learning and skill building with a focus on various aspects of ecology, the environment and wildlife. They bring children in touch with the reality of wildlife conservation and work in the field. Most of these workshops involve bringing children out of their comfort zones where they are faced with numerous challenges. The faculty help and guide them through these challenges and learning paths, enabling them to expand their comfort zones while also building on their self esteem, confidence, inter-personal skills, problem solving skills and so on. In addition, it offers children to connect with Nature, thus enriching their lives as has been confirmed by numerous studies around the world about children gaining from a strong connect with Nature.
Q. How do you select the participants? What are the selection criteria?
A - We do not have selection criteria as we feel that Nature and outdoor education is something all kids should go through.
Q. Do kids get cranky in the absence of parents? How do you handle 'challenging kids'?
A - Kids do miss their homes and comfort zones and sometimes, it does require quite a large investment of time and energy to pull children out of their woes. However, as long as the experience stays engaging and the children are constantly learning, their energies stay positive.
Q. How do you select locations? What are the safety measures undertaken? What would you do in case of an emergency?
A - The locations we use are generally a place, which has something unique to offer be it an aspect of ecology or an experience. We use research stations and bases which has some ongoing scientific research work in progress, this give us the opportunity to have an inside look on actual field work going on and by staying there we also contribute to the revenue of the station. We use the highest of safety standards and all our equipment are tried and tested. We are also equipped to handle medical contingencies and are in contact with local medical institutions.
Q. Please share your past experience on The Young Naturalist Workshops.
A - We have now had so many children on our workshops, each with a unique perspective and personality that it is difficult to share it entirely. Each workshop has its own challenges, ups, downs, highs and energy.
The Young Naturalist Camp now gets children anticipating with eagerness for the summer vacation. Going out and spending time with Nature and other people of the same age group gives children the opportunity to explore Nature and make friends in a safe environment under the guidance of responsible adults.