Staunton News Leader 07/20/2014 Page : A01

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V
ESUVIUS —Tuckedawayina
glen between two moun-
tains is a small cozy envi-
ronment for learning.
With no cellphones or
computers, campers just
have pencil, paper and the world
around them.
Nature Camp has been around
since 1942 and is still going strong.
First started by the Virginia Federa-
tion of Garden Clubs, Nature Camp
has been its own entity for the past
eight years.
An unconventional summer camp
for fifth- to 12th-graders, the camp
combines the love of nature andenvi-
ronment with continual learning —a
concept that engages campers.
Nature Camp mainly draws 90 to
95 percent of its campers from Vir-
ginia, but the camp has hosted camp-
ers fromall over the country.
It’s a trip down memory lane for
for Philip Coulling. Starting as an 11-
year-old camper in1979, Coulling has
been the executive director of the
camp since 2004.
Eventhe door to his summer quar-
ters maintains the name “Flip” —his
campnicknamegiventohim35years
ago.
“I think what makes Nature Camp
special are the rich traditions we
have,” Coulling said.
“Almost everyone who comes
here buys into what we ask of them,”
he added. It’s not a typical summer
camp. “Theyare cominghere anddo-
ing some work. They’re sitting down
and taking classes and doing work
outside the classroom.”
“But the thing is, not only do they
accept it, they enjoy it,” Coulling
said.
The camp has remained fairly un-
changed — just some updates over
ABOVE: Camp participant Tanner Shultz, 17, of South Carolina chooses to spend his free time working in the comfort of a hammock at Nature Camp near Vesuvius on June 25.
BELOW: Camp participants sit in a circle outdoors, listening to Amy Beaird, an instructor and camp counselor, during an entomology class at Nature Camp. MIKE TRIPP/THE NEWS LEADER
LEARNING
BENEATH
THE TREES
Rockbridge Co. camp draws generations of kids to study natural science, plus have fun
By Laura Peters
lpeters@newsleader.com
Camp counselor Katie Ingebretsen of Fredericksburg sits on a bench as she does work at Nature Camp. MIKE TRIPP/THE NEWS LEADER
“If you come in willing to
work and experience the
world around you, you
kind of open your mind to
new ideas.”
—SIMON MCKAY, 20, of Boyce
See NATURE, Page A4
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63
MOSTLY CLOUDY
VERONA — “I brought two
hats, one for rain, one for
sun,” Ken Cruise said as he
waitedfor friends at theVero-
na park-and-ride on an over-
cast Saturday morning.
Soon, about 25 friends
joined the Toms Brook resi-
dent and started marching to-
ward the Va. 612 overpass
with signs protesting the fed-
eral government’s child im-
migration policy.
Meanwhile, the same num-
ber of people walked on the
opposite side of the road wav-
ingsignswithadifferent mes-
sage — supporting the chil-
dren who’ve been arriving at
the southern U.S. border by
the thousands, mainly from
Guatemala, Honduras and El
Salvador.
It was all part of a national
day of action, or reaction,
as an influx of new, undocu-
mented children escalates
the debate over immigration
VALLEY RESIDENTS ON BOTH SIDES OF IMMIGRATION ISSUE SHOWUP
Verona protest targets influx
News of immigrant
children at region’s
facility lights debate
By Patricia Borns
pborns@newsleader.com
ON THE WEB
Visit newsleader.comfor a photo gallery and a video.
INSIDE
» Our View: The real threat to America
See PROTESTS, Page A5
Terry
Adams of
Churchville
waves a
flag during
protests at
the Va. 612
overpass in
Verona on
Saturday.
MIKE TRIPP/THE
NEWS LEADER
Staunton News Leader 07/20/2014 Page : A04
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LEARNINGBENEATHTHE TREES
A4 • THE NEWS LEADER • SUNDAY, JULY 20, 2014
the years.
Operating on an annual bud-
get of about $300,000, the
camp’s most recent overhaul
came in 2006. The camp re-
ceived $650,000 through grants
and donations by the Nature
Camp Foundation, which is run
by alumni. The camp under-
went major renovations and up-
grades to improve the infra-
structure.
The camp has four different
sessions for four different age
groups. Each camper takes 11
classes that last 10 days. Within
those classes, they pick a major
that theystudythroughout their
two weeks at camp.
From botany to ecology to
geology, every class is centered
around things that can be dis-
covered around the camp.
Classes are outdoors, with time
spent searchingfor mushrooms
or lookingat rocks, evenexplor-
ing the nearby creek.
This is their connection to
thenatural world, Coullingsaid.
Campers also have access to
a science lab with microscopes
and other equipment, as well as
a library with thousands of
books on nature-related sci-
ence.
A day at camp
The first session, which be-
gan June 15 for students in
grades 9 through 12, hosted 89
campers — nine over capacity.
Boys and girls have their own
bunkhouses separated by the
main office. Each bunkhouse
can hold 40 campers. The over-
flow of girls was housed in the
extra bunks within the main of-
fice’s cabin.
Enteringthe girls bunks, you
come straight into a room with
four bunk beds. Straight ahead
is where the counselors sleep.
Entering the room, the walls
are filled with photos and small
knick-knacks, something that
counselor Katie Ingebretsen,
20, of Fredericksburg said has
been going on for quite some
time. It’s their collection. Al-
though the campers have their
own bath houses, what they call
T-houses, the counselors get the
privilege of their own privy
within the room.
“You have to give them
something,” Coulling said.
“They’re spending their whole
summer here.”
It’s mandatory for campers
to keep the cabins clean. Beds
aremadedaily, dirt is swept and
there are small cubicles to keep
toothbrushes and photos up and
out of the way.
The entire bunkhouse is a
small cabin made of wood.
There are wooden bunks, wood-
en frames and wooden locker-
like inserts in the walls to hang
clothing. Each camper has a
trunk, where they store most of
their belongings. Although
there are walls, they do not go
entirely to the ceiling, allowing
airflowthroughout the cabin.
There’s noair conditioningat
camp, but at least there’s run-
ning water.
Since they are in the moun-
tains, the temperature rarely
reaches above 80 degrees and
always cools down at night,
Coulling said.
Campers start their day
about 7:30 a.m.
Breakfast comes after
wakeup, thenstraight intoclass
at 9 a.m.
By 10:30 a.m., there is morn-
ing recreation, where campers
can go on hikes, hang out and
read, swim in the pool or play
games on the lawn area.
By noon, the camp is silently
waiting for announcements in
the cafeteria, or what they call
the L.S. Building, which is
named for Lillian Shilling, who
founded the camp. Each camp-
er takes turns during their stay
toheadover towherethefoodis
served and pass out large bowls
of what is being served.
Everything is served family
style at the camp, which is re-
flective of the meaning of Na-
tureCamp—onceyouareapart
of Nature Camp you are part of
the family.
Large bowls of snap peas,
chicken salad and hummus are
passed around. Coulling said 60
percent of the camp’s food bud-
get goes directly to purchasing
local produce.
After lunch, it’s rest time,
which Coulling says is mainly
for the counselors to relax. This
is a time when the campers usu-
ally nap and they can’t bother
the counselors. It’s like a re-
charging time.
Ingebretsen uses it to relax
andreadabookunder theshade
of the trees.
In the afternoon, there’s one
moreclass, dinner, acamp-wide
program and campers are in
bed by 10.
The counselors
Counselors teach the classes
tocampers. Thereis atotal of 25
counselors, an assistant direc-
tor, three cooks and an emer-
gency medical person. The only
full-time employees are Coull-
ing and a year-round grounds-
keeper.
For some, Nature Camp is in
their blood. Numerous campers
have had family members at-
tend in the past. Coulling has a
niece who has startedcomingto
the camp. Even the counselors
were once campers, like Inge-
bretsen who spent seven years
as a camper.
Simon McKay, 20, of Boyce
hadbeenacamperforsixyears.
His time at camp shaped what
he wanted to study at Virginia
Tech — geology — which was
his major at camp in 2006. Now
serving his first year as a coun-
selor, he is nowa role model for
other campers, as his counsel-
ors were to him.
McKay’s aunt came to Na-
ture Camp in the 1970s, which
prompted him to check it out.
McKay first came in 2006 and
was fully sponsored by his local
garden club to attend.
Coullingsaidthat most of the
campers get scholarships from
local sponsors for the two-week
session’s cost of $815. About 45
percent of campers receive fi-
nancial assistance, Coulling
said.
Although the camp is intense
with the amount of work a
camper has to do, the rewards
are abundant.
“It gives you a deeper appre-
ciation of the world around
you,” McKay said. “There’s so
much energy and excitement.”
Being surrounded by moun-
tains gives the camp a sense of
seclusion. McKay said even if a
camper comes to one session,
they are immediately a part of
Nature Camp’s traditions for
eternity, like Sunday hikes with
peanut butter and jelly sand-
wiches they call “squishies.”
“Everythingyoudoisdeepin
tradition,” McKay said. “This is
oneof themost beautiful places.
If you come in willing to work
and experience the world
around you, you kind of open
your mind to newideas.”
Lars Nelson, head counselor
for the boys, started as a camp-
er in1967. In1970, he came back
as a counselor until 1976. In
2007, Nelson returned again.
A teacher at Rockbridge
CountyHighSchool, Nelsonhas
his summers off, so he decided
to be a counselor once again at
Nature Camp. Even though he’s
a good amount older than the
other campers and counselors,
he still learns something new
every day.
“Even though I come to
teach, I learn something,” he
said. “The other counselors in-
spire me to learn new things. I
come here to learn.”
Much like other counselors,
NatureCampinspiredNelsonto
become a teacher.
The campers
SamSquyars, 17, of Williams-
burghas beenacamper for four
years. As she enters her last
year of camp and high school,
her experience through camp
has inspired her to go to Vir-
ginia Tech and study wildlife
science.
ShealsowantstohiketheAp-
palachianTrail, all thanks toher
time at camp.
Even Squyars’ mom came to
Nature Camp when she was lit-
tle.
“That’s kind of what inspired
me to come here,” she said.
“What surprised me is how
close people get at camp,”
Squyars added. “You become a
family together, you take class-
es together, you learn together
and you really growclose.”
Cady Van Assendelft, 16, and
Sarah Riddell, 15, both of Staun-
ton, first found out about Na-
ture Camp through a mutual
friend.
Riddell’s friends back home
joke that she goes to “nerd
camp” each year, but it doesn’t
bother her. She loves the struc-
ture and learning environment
she’s put into.
“I don’t go to a lot of other
camps,” she said.
Riddell said attending Na-
ture Camp is something totally
different than the rest of her
summer.
“It gives me something to
do,” she said. “I think it’s really
interesting ... it’s kind of like a
responsibility.”
Campers keep touch in after
camp ends. With Facebook and
cell phones, communication
outside of camp is unstoppable.
The camp has a Facebook page
for campers to share with each
other.
But even as camp ends,
campers are looking forward to
the next year andthe possibility
later down the road to become a
counselor and start a newchap-
ter at Nature Camp.
Continued from Page A1
Nature
NATURE CAMP THEN & NOW
An older photograph from the photo album archives of Nature Camp near Vesuvius, left. Nature Camp
has been around since 1942 and is still going strong. First started by the Virginia Federation of Garden
Clubs, Nature Camp has been its own entity for the past eight years. MIKE TRIPP/THE NEWS LEADER
An undated
photo of a
previous
Nature
Camp at
Vesuvius,
above.
Below, a
modern
view of
camp bunks.
For some,
Nature
Camp is in
their blood.
Numerous
campers
have had
family
members
attend in
the past.
MIKE TRIPP/THE
NEWS LEADER
Camp participants attend a geography class at Nature Camp. MIKE TRIPP/THE NEWS LEADER
Lars Nelson, an instructor in geology and head counselor of boys, leads
a geology class at Nature Camp. MIKE TRIPP/THE NEWS LEADER

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