“Camp.” The word brings to mind a mixture of bug spray-scented memories for me. Days spent hiking in the sunshine, playing games among tall trees, boating on a sun-soaked, sparkling lake, and getting glue, paint and glitter all over my fingers doing something called “crafts.”

As the director for KEEN’s Pond to Pines summer camp, I have made it my goal to create an environment where kids are able to be without the shallow distractions of our modern world. Campers learn about the world around us, taking time to smell a blooming sagebrush, count the fish jumping in a pond, and reconnect with the simple joys of nature.

At Pond to Pines summer camp, you will find campers who are unplugged, engaged, and maybe a little dirty. We take a hands-on approach to summer, learning new things, exploring the natural world, and enjoying a variety of classic camp activities like hiking and boating.

Each week of camp has a different theme, appealing to the interests of campers of all ages. There were two fantastic weeks of camp in June: Survivor Kid and Junior Ranger. Week one of Pond to Pines camp was Survivor Kid, where campers learned what to do if they found themselves “misplaced,” including strategies for surviving wildlife encounters, and how to best use the natural resources of Kittitas County to survive.

Campers also made crafts to help them survive in the wild, such as rope and model rafts.

Week two of camp was Junior Ranger, and was all about learning how to care for, protect, and enjoy our natural world. Campers took part in service projects at camp such as litter hikes and painting bat boxes to install on site. We also learned about what Park Rangers do every day to protect and share the beauty of our State Parks.

In July, we have three exciting weeks of camp coming up. July 8-12 is Dirty Jobs, where we will celebrate all the messy jobs that help us connect to our natural world. We will have presentations for campers from several local agencies including Mid-Columbia Fisheries, The Forest Service, and Kittitas Environmental Education Network. Campers will also take part in messy art and other camp activities.

July 15-19 is Puzzle Park week, and campers will work together to decode all the natural puzzles camp has to offer. Maybe campers will have to decode the clues on a puzzle hunt, find their way around camp with a GPS, or use a cipher to send messages? It will remain a puzzle until campers arrive!

Our final week of camp for 2019 (July 22-26) is Outsider Art week, and campers will enjoy a week of nature-inspired art! We will use the natural beauty of Helen McCabe State Park to guide our artistic expression in multiple mediums.

Pond to Pines camp staff are thrilled to share a summer of memories with our campers! We want to send a huge THANK YOU to our generous camp scholarship donors, who have helped make it possible for local families to send kids to camp.

KEEN is also making it easier for kids to experience camp magic through several discount opportunities, such as our sibling discount, and our “bring a buddy” discount. What could be better than sharing camp memories with your brother, sister, or best buddy?

There is still space left for kids to join us for our three remaining weeks of camp. All this camp fun starts at www.ycic.org, where families can find more information about camp, register for an upcoming week, and find out about the other projects and events that KEEN puts on in our community throughout the year.

Katie Ybarra is the Pond to Pines Summer Camp Director.

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