Exploring Innovative Nature Engagement Practices
Camp Fire’s current strategic plan includes the commitment to “promote environmental stewardship and action.” Currently, the level of nature engagement across Camp Fire councils varies widely. Some councils have full outdoor camp facilities and incorporate nature into everything they do; other councils, especially those without dedicated outdoor facilities, often focus more on youth development and social-emotional learning.
Camp Fire partnered with Informed Change to capture and share innovative learning happening at the intersection of youth development and nature across several Camp Fire councils. These learnings can inform the implementation of Camp Fire’s strategic plan commitment to promote environmental stewardship and action across councils.
Camp Fire has long been considered a high-quality youth development organization. Nature is an important aspect of Camp Fire’s identity, yet the focus on nature has fluctuated in importance over time and varies across programs and councils. One goal of Camp Fire’s new strategic plan is to intentionally bring the focus on nature to programming across councils both in camp and afterschool settings.
Intentionally engaging young people with nature, whether in an afterschool program in an urban area or a camp in the remote wilderness can have positive and lasting benefits for young people (Deane & Harre, 2014; Delia & Krasny, 2018; Holland, Powell, Thomsen & Monz, 2018). Effective teaching that incorporates nature is often experiential and youth-centered and is not limited to natural settings (Kuo et. al, 2019). Programs that have an intentional focus on nature, environmental stewardship and justice coupled with positive youth development principles support a variety of positive youth outcomes including personal development, leadership skills, and a connection to place and community (Sethi & Eisenberg, 2020).
Nature experiences not only have the potential to promote environmental stewardship and action in youth, they can also promote youth development, relationship-building, and academic learning. This report explores the innovative practices of nine nature-focused Camp Fire councils who are thoughtfully engaging young people with nature – often while also developing their social-emotional skills, cultivating youth leaders, and providing opportunities for standards-aligned STEM learning.