Children can enjoy the great outdoors in the Wildlife Camps program offered through UI Recreational Services. Registration for the popular camps opens Feb. 29. File photo by Tom Jorgensen.
Registration will open Feb. 29 for the University of Iowa Department of Recreational Services’ summer Wildlife Camps on campus and at natural areas around Eastern Iowa.
In its 26th year, the Wildlife Camps program is open to kids ages 4 and 5 and students who have completed kindergarten through high school. Campers spend the majority of their time at Macbride Nature Recreation Area, with a few camps taking place at Rec Services facilities or traveling elsewhere for field trips.
Meredith Caskey, assistant director for Rec Services, who coordinates the Wildlife Camps, says they offer participants a hands-on environmental education experience, as well as recreational activities to promote healthy movement, such as archery, canoeing, survival skills, and birding.
“With an interactive approach, the learning seems to become more ingrained, more instilled in the campers we work with,” she says. “It’s an experience that stays with them.”
UI sophomore Ellen Carman, a former Wildlife Camps camper who is now a counselor, says she can still recall doing a lot of the activities that she now teaches.
When I was a kid, I remember feeling like Macbride was a vast wilderness out in the middle of nowhere,” Carman says. “Now, I pretty much know all of the trails.”
Carman, a science education major from Iowa City, initially enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago, but she transferred to the UI to pursue the greater variety of science-education opportunities she saw here, such as teaching at the Wildlife Camps.
“Working at this camp is the reason I have the major I have and the reason I want to go into outdoor education,” she said. “Being able to see how camp affects the kids is such an inspiration and motivator. Because they’re learning in an environment where they’re hardly ever sitting and bored, they’ll notice things that I don’t notice.”
This year, for ease of use—and to support the camps’ environmentally friendly mission—the registration process is entirely online. UI staff, faculty, and students can use their Hawk ID and password to sign up, and those without a UI login are encouraged to create an account before registration begins by contacting Rec Services at 319-335-9294 or visiting a membership desk.
Caskey says that in addition to being paperless, the new online registration process will help parents see which camps are still open in real time.
Spring break camps available as well
Registration for Spring Break UI Wildlife Camps is open. Goshawk Camp is Rec Services’ traditional Spring Break Camp; Hawkeye Camp is for UI families only (includes staff, faculty, and students), offered in partnership with UI Family Services. Camps run March 14–18 and are for children in first through sixth grade. Campers must sign up for the full week. Depending on the camp, locations include Macbride Nature Recreation Area, area parks, and Recreational Services facilities. Scholarships are available through UI Family Services.