Heather DuPlooy, the Garden's Education coordinator, reports to us about what's been happening during summer camp. Here's what she had to say recently.
Walking around the classroom at the Naples Botanical Garden Summer Camp, I am distracted by delicate, colorful art pieces that look like stained glass. Camp counselor, Shannon Guidry, who is showing me around before my presentation to the campers, tells me that the work is inspired by the amazing hand blown glass art of Dale Chihuly.
The vibrant artwork is part of an activity presented by Jessica Wozniak from the Naples Museum of Art. While I admire their work, the students are carefully weaving multicolored strands of yarn through garden pots which will later be planted with seeds from the garden. This gives Shannon a couple minutes to talk to me about what the kids have been up to this week. A lot!
Apart from the faux glass project, they have studied animal tracks, gone out in the Garden’s native wildflower meadow for wildflower scavenger hunts, hand sewed lei’s with fresh plumeria flowers with the Garden’s plumeria curator, Hetty Ford, and even learned about permaculture. The counselors’ favorite project is the ‘random acts of kindness’ activity led by the Garden’s Eric Foht.
This is when the students and counselors write positive messages on the leaves of a plant, known as the autograph tree, and drop them around the Garden for visitors to discover. The messages range from sweet and simple, such as “Bee yourself” and “Smile” to a quote from Kung Fu Panda.
All this is only a slice of what the kids are doing. Shannon sums it up best when she tells me, “This is a great camp. The stuff that we do, no one else does. There is a lot of learning; it’s scientific; it’s artistic; and the kids just have so much fun.”
Ten-year year old, Jessica, echoes her thoughts, “I like camp because it’s educational and fun.”Because every child has his or her own learning style, Shannon says she feels that the diversity of the activities means that “Every camper has a chance to shine.”
Counselor, Evan Barr, agrees. "I feel like I'm making a difference with what we are teaching and how we are teaching it." All this enthusiasm puts the pressure on me to keep the young crowd entertained, and I am relieved that I get a great response when I finally do my tour in the Brazil Garden.
I like to think it is my riveting information on useful plants, but I suspect it is because I let the kids smear red, sticky annatto seeds on their face as ‘war paint.’ "I'm going to miss my friends here when camp is over," I hear one camper lament. I think that the campers and counselors agree.