DRAGONFLIES: Forest Immersion SUMMER CAMP for Children ages 6 – 9.

After successfully launching the wildly popular Dragonflies Enrichment Program during the 2020-2021 school year, The Eastern Ridge School is introducing its first Dragonfly Summer Camp, a nature-based forest immersion summer program for children ages 6 -9 with sessions running from June 20 – August 19. The program will focus on connecting children with the natural world, fostering social/emotional growth, and developing critical thinking skills, all the while inspiring a sense of joy and wonder through adventures among the trees, creeks and trails at Wolf Trap National Park.

Dragonfly summer camp will be offered for nine consecutive weeks, with sessions offered in three-week increments. These 3, 6, and 9 week options are designed to support our intended goals of developing a truly cohesive group within which the children have opportunities to forge deep relationships with each other and with their surroundings. Rather than discrete weeks, or themed sessions with prescribed projects, the children, alongside their experienced guide, will be engaging in nature play and exploration, building trust, establishing routines in response to the rhythms of the day in the forest, tuning into their surroundings, and finding new ways to play, create, imagine and learn. 

As children become more tuned in to nature, they will also become more aware of their own capabilities and their unique role within the group and in the world. Participation for at least 3 weeks will enable the children to develop greater confidence, resilience, and trust and to experience a deeper connection to their peers and to the environment. Ultimately, our time in the woods will build competency in identifying and understanding the plant and animal life that is part of the ecosystem around them. Through this relationship, children develop a “sense of place” which is an experiential awareness of their connection to the natural world and their role in respecting and sustaining it.

FAQs:

What is the schedule, how much does it cost, and how do I sign up?

  • Camp runs Monday through Friday, 9:00AM – 1:00PM
    • Session 1: June 20 – July 8 (no camp July 4) – $700
    • Session 2: July 11 – July 29 – $750
    • Session 3: August 1 – August 19 – $750
      • We offer a 10% discount for each additional sibling, and a 10% discount for any child who enrolls in all 3 sessions.
      • Children will be admitted to the program on a first-come, first-served basis and must be at least 6 years old at the time of enrollment.*
      • Spaces are limited, as we intend to keep the groups small with a maximum of 8 children per session.
      • Download and print your enrollment forms and submit with payment:

* We must have BOTH YOUR COMPLETED FORMS AND YOUR PAYMENT to consider your application received. You may mail, hand-deliver, or email if you are paying by credit card (which incurs a 3% fee). We will date and time stamp it upon receipt.

What will a typical day of forest camp look like?

Our days will have a distinct flow and rhythm, with lots of room for open ended play and exploration within that predictable framework. Elements of the day will include time for play and exploration as well as observation, introspection, and reflection. Scientific inquiry, team building, healthy risk taking, cooperative games, and creative expression will all be incorporated into our forest days.

What should my child wear and bring to camp?

We recommend comfortable clothes with good coverage, for ease of movement and protection from the elements, insects, scratches and scrapes. Lightweight long pants or leggings, and lightweight shirts with sleeves plus socks with ankle coverage, supportive shoes for hiking, and a wide brimmed hat are the basics for every day. For more recommendations regarding clothing and additional required gear, please refer to our handy gear list. This list may be updated as camp draws nearer.

What are your policies related to illness in general and Covid, more specifically?

Our policies are outlined in detail here. These policies were drawn up for our preschool, and all of the relevant points can be extrapolated for our Dragonfly Summer Camp program. We expect minimal impacts on day-to-day operations of the program, since Dragonflies will take place 100% outdoors and the target age group are all eligible to be fully vaccinated.

Is lunch provided?

All participants will be required to bring a PEANUT FREE packed lunch and snack from home daily. Lunches and snacks should be nutrient dense and include protein to fuel active bodies. We ask that you refrain from sending sugary treats or anything “melty” (chocolate or yogurt chips or coatings) or “drippy” (yogurt or applesauce cups); these tend to create difficult to mitigate messes and attract unwanted stinging insects. Since everything that comes into the park must go out, we prefer as few single use wrappers and containers as possible. Bento box style lunches are ideal. Suggested foods include: sunflower butter (or other nut butter) sandwiches on whole grain bread, pita and hummus or bean dip, hard cheeses and bread/crackers, fresh veggies and dip, fresh fruit (also good for hydration), trail mixes with dried fruits and nuts. Please be aware that we will not have access to refrigeration, so all foods must be non-perishable or accompanied by cold packs.

What do you do in the case of inclement weather or extreme heat?

As they say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!” Dragonfly camp will operate rain or shine, and the gear list linked above will help us accomplish that. However, if a lightning strike is within 10 miles, we will seek shelter by the Filene Center box office, and depending on conditions, either determine that it is reasonable to wait it out under cover, or  notify parents to come retrieve their children. We will not have access to indoor shelter on inclement weather days.

If we enter into a period of “code red” conditions, we will take advantage of the most shaded areas of the park, emphasize quieter focused activities such as fine motor projects, and spend as much time as possible along the water’s edge.  While wading is prohibited within the park, creekside splashing will help keep us cool and in good spirits. Our camp guides will also be vigilant about requiring regular drinking water breaks to make sure everyone stays hydrated. While unlikely to be necessary with these strategies in place, our camp guides are trained to recognize signs of heat exhaustion. If conditions are so extreme that the children cannot safely participate, we will call parents to retrieve their children early. 

 There will be no refunds for days canceled or shortened due to inclement weather.

Will there be access to fresh water for drinking?

Each camper will be responsible for bringing and carrying their own water bottles each day.  We recommend two 18 oz. bottles per child daily. At this time, we cannot count on access to drinking water for refills in the park, so it is very important that each child comes prepared with adequate drinking water daily. If the status of running water availability changes, we will update you.

Where will my child go to the bathroom?

There are public restrooms located within the park. We ask that each child use the bathroom upon arrival before their parents sign them in each morning. We will build opportunities for bathroom breaks into the daily routine as well. In a pinch, our guides will facilitate respectful strategies for more “natural” options.

What kind of training do the Dragonfly staff have?

Our Lead Forest Guide has specific training and experience in nature based education and the forest school approach in addition to participating in ongoing professional development in this field. They are well versed in early childhood development and have worked for several years in nature based and forest school programs. You can read more about our program lead, Lu McNeely, here. Although we haven’t updated their title yet to reflect their new roles as Dragonfly Lead and Outdoor Resource Specialist at our preschool, you can learn about the relevant experiences and dedication to the field that precede their time with us at ERS. There will also be an assistant teacher who will also be fully certified in pediatric CPR and First Aid, as well as the possibility of one or more teen volunteers.