A warm summer day was spent trekking through the woods, splashing in creeks and relaxing to the sounds of nature at Nazareth Motherhouse Campus during the first Spirit of the Wild Day Camp. The camp, which welcomed more than a dozen kids on July 12 ranging from third grade to high school, was hosted by the Nazareth Retreat Center.
“Nazareth Retreat Center’s goal is to offer enriching summer programming for our local youth,” said Center Director Lisa Downs. “With the current stress level in our society, this is a way we can foster health and balance for our young people.”
The day camp set out to be both educational and entertaining, deepening the young participant’s connection with nature along the way. Several instructors led the students on the environmental journey throughout the day.
Julia Gerwe, a former AmeriCorps volunteer previously assigned to Nazareth Campus, returned as the new interim director for the New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future. Gerwe was joined by the group’s retiring director, Whitney Wurzel, and current AmeriCorps volunteer Brenden Dines for the morning session.
This session focused on the exploration of nature, starting off with a walk in the woods near Peter’s Puddle to observe wildlife and important plant life, such as milkweed. Later in the morning, the kids headed down to the creek, where they learned about the watershed and water quality and captured and released a menagerie of water-dwelling critters such as crawfish, water striders, salamanders, snails and water-penny beetles.
“New Pioneers was thrilled to partner with the Nazareth Retreat Center in hosting this day camp,” Wurzel said. “We appreciate the opportunity to share Nazareth’s ecological wonders with local youth and then watch as their curiosity, connectivity, and excitement grew during our time together.”
By the afternoon, a more relaxing approach was taken with a mediation and mindfulness session led by Amy Pascucci and Gracie Nafzinger of Forest Pals. Mary Underwood led a session with the older students, and both incorporated arts and crafts. These mindfulness practices helped the children develop resilience, empathy, and a greater appreciation for the beauty of the world around them.
Nazareth Retreat Center’s summer day event for youth offered a unique opportunity to blend ecology, mindfulness, and spirituality into a cohesive and enriching experience.
“We were delighted with the inaugural ‘Spirit of the Wild’ day camp for youth at Nazareth Retreat Center,” Downs said. “Watching youth catch bugs, learning about fungi, observing healthy water streams, and then participating in meditation/mindfulness activities in the afternoon provided a healthy balance. One we hope the youth will continue in their daily lives.”