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The Power of Summer Camp

School is out for many young Nebraskans which means parents are busy trying to figure out what to do with them this summer.  If you want your youngster to have an adventure, then summer camp is your answer.  If you want your child to build leadership skills and self-esteem, then summer camp is your answer.  If you want your kids unplugged from the digital world for a bit, then summer camp is your answer.

A Summer Camp Staple - Archery
A Summer Camp Staple – Archery

According to the American Camp Association summer camps can provide positive impacts in the development of social skills, character building and citizenship.  It’s what Lindsay Shearer, Nebraska 4-H Camp Operations Coordinator, calls healthy risk taking.  “Youth are able to try new things and step outside their normal arena into a safe and comfortable environment.  They meet new friends and experience a chance to interact with positive, adult staff and campers from other towns and states”

However, if you ask the kids they will simply tell you that camp is “fun.” Maybe because there are fewer and fewer places where they are encouraged to make some noise, get a little muddy, swap campfire tales and explore the mysteries of creep-crawlies, all while drinking “bug-juice” and burning marshmallows.  Doesn’t hurt that many of them take place in some pretty cool Nebraska settings, too.

Take aim at summer camp fun
Take aim at summer camp fun

“Camps challenge youth to try something new like firing a blackpowder rifle for the first time, staying dry in a canoe, not getting tangled up while fishing or taking a turn on the zip-line.” says Shearer. “These are experiences that campers will remember for a long time, but can also shape new interests and hobbies that can last a lifetime.”

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) is all about having fun while exploring the outdoors and holds summer camp programs across the state each year at our facilities.  From Ponca State Park on the Missouri River to bluffs of the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area in the west and back to the new ranges at the Nebraska Outdoor Education Center in the star city.  The list of summer camp programs is as varied as the scenery.

Making edible scat
Making edible scat

“We are excited to be able to utilize the Nebraska Outdoor Education Center to offer new possibilities for area youth to have fun while learning new skills for enjoying the outdoor resources we have in the state,” says Heather Weihe, Events Coordinator at the new center. “In our first year we will be making frog calls, flinging arrows, cooking spider-dogs and tossing atlatls.”

The NGPC also teams-up with a diverse group of partners such as the Nebraska 4-H Camp Centers to offer even more opportunities for youngsters.  The 4-H Outdoor Skills camps are the longest running partner-camps and provide a residential setting to allow campers to dive even deeper into conservation topics like wildlife scat identification, bass fishing, poking holes things with archery and dutch oven cooking.  These camps have been popular over the years and the tradition continues this summer.

“Now we just need to find the kids that are interested in having fun and looking for some summer adventures,” says Weihe. “Let’s have some fun.”


About Aaron Hershberger

Aaron "hershy" Hershberger is an Outdoor Education Specialist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He loves being outdoors. When not outdoors he is day-dreaming about being outdoors and/or whining that he is not outdoors. Hershy has been a Hunter Education Instructor, in two states, for nearly three decades & a Bowhunter Education Instructor for over 20 years.

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