Exploring Pepperwood through the eyes of a Budding Biologist camper
By Margaret Boeger, Education Director
As we welcome summertime with the late wildflower blossoms, chirping cicadas, and singing birds, we are joined in early June each year by the sound of children laughing at Pepperwoods’ Budding Biologists summer camp.
It is always a joy to have our young summer campers join us here for this weeklong opportunity to explore some of the hidden gems that our beautiful property has to offer. For these 20 campers, each week brings a new discovery and a chance to learn some local bird songs, identify mammal tracks and signs, catch a frog at Turtle pond, or create a fairy house in our Redwood Canyon
Every day brings a new adventure at this nature-based camp, with an opportunity to delve into various science and natural history topics covering everything from insects to oak trees to reptiles—and many things in between! There are chances to work with one another to solve nature mysteries, including putting together bone parts to recreate a deer skeleton, coming up with all the colors of the rainbow with wildflowers that they find along their hikes, and figuring out which rodent skull they have uncovered during their own owl pellet dissection.
One highlight of the week is when campers visit Turtle Pond, an ephemeral pond —meaning one that temporarily dries up—here at Pepperwood that houses a large population of Western pond turtles. Students sneak up on the pond with a silent walk, and then spot the turtles sunning themselves on a log in the center of the pond. They also discover colorful dragonflies and damselflies at various life stages, from nymph to adult. One student found a dragonfly that had just shed its nymph exoskeleton and was sitting on a reed drying its wings!
Our campers create lasting friendships with one another as they struggle together to hike up a hill and then rejoice when they make it to the top and soak in the views. They play many games during the week including one of their favorites, Raven Robbers, where they roleplay what it is like to be an adult bird protecting a nest from a poacher (a raven). This is both fun and educational, as the campers run around, hide, and also learn about bird behavior and ecology.
Each day concludes with an art or craft activity, so that they have a memento from Pepperwood to bring home and share with their family and friends. This year we made bird shadow boxes for the first time, which turned out beautiful and will adorn the walls of our campers’ homes with a nature craft that was created with sustainability in mind. Other crafts included making animal tracks on wooden disks and creating sparkling spirit sticks (collected by the campers) and adorned with rocks, feathers, and crystals.
Each week, the campers are exposed to the natural world in many ways including through art, science, music, and play. We love to hear them reflecting on their favorite activities from each day, and are continually inspired to see how excited they are out in nature, and how their love of learning and the environment will hopefully spark a life-long conservation ethic and a yearning to discover more about the natural world.