When I was in grade school, we had a field trip to The Tiffin Centre for Conservation to learn about air and water in the environment. Decades later, I can still vividly remember the demonstrations and activities of the day. The educational team at The Tiffin Centre just has a knack for creating hands-on, engaging learning experiences.
Camp Tiffin (Ages 5-12)
“We make a pact not to write on the board,” says Naomi Saunders, Environmental Education Facilitator with the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority. Kids learn at Camp Tiffin, but it’s far from a regular school day. Alongside natural history and orienteering, kids learn about ecology and our place in the environment. “A lot of our lessons are in the background, in the dialogue,” says Saunders. Hands-on experiments and scavenger hunts keep kids active while they build useful knowledge and skill sets. “What’s great is that we’re able to borrow from our education program,” Saunders adds. “We see about 14, 000 children through the schools visiting for curriculum-related activities.”
Camp Tiffin runs July through August, Monday through Friday, from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Kids can expect to take part in hikes through the forest, canoeing, pond dipping, and “Predator / Prey”—an instincts for survival game. Kids can also visit the Free Play Forest—a fenced-in, loose parts playground—to use small rails, logs and planks to transform the space. It’s a place for imagination, exploration and problem solving through open-ended play. Team-building, collaboration, communication, and problem solving are given a lot of focus at Camp Tiffin. “One of the activities we do every week is build shelters,” says Saunders. “Each group has their own ‘clubhouse’ that they build together. With that comes a lot of different ideas—kids have to work collaboratively to build their shelter, which means using their people-skills.”
Junior Leadership Camp (Ages 13-15)
The Junior Leadership Camp was created for kids who loved Camp Tiffin and wanted to continue visiting every summer. “We had kids who were coming since they were six, and now they were twelve,” says Saunders. “They weren’t ready to say goodbye to Camp Tiffin, and we weren’t ready to say goodbye to them either.” At the Junior Leadership Camp, older kids continue to build on their collaboration and team-building skills, but with an added emphasis on volunteerism, teaching, and working with children.
The Junior Leadership Camp is a two-part program. In their first week, Leadership campers spend time with one of the centre’s instructors—an OCT Certified teacher—to learn about working with different age groups, effective activities and games, and safety exercises. “We have one week during July and one week in August where they can get hands-on foundations programming,” says Saunders. The second part of the camp incorporates volunteering.
In their second week, Leadership campers earn a certificate by being partnered with a Camp Tiffin counsellor and working a forty-hour volunteer week. “As they’re going into Grade Nine, they can use those as their community hours,” says Saunders. “And some of them come back again even after that!”
The Newcomer Camp
Kids who know Camp Tiffin tend to come back year after year. But Saunders recalls a particularly successful new program: The Newcomer Camp. “The Rotary Club of Barrie sponsored twelve children who were new to Canada—from Sudan, the Ukraine, Japan, China, Vietnam, and Mexico.” says Saunders. “Being out in nature is a stress reducer, so being a part of this camp was phenomenal for them not only for their language, but for their self-confidence.” So, if you think your kids could benefit from some outdoor time, self-confidence boosting, and hands-on learning, visit The Tiffin Centre’s website or call for more details!
by Emily Bednarz
Tiffin Centre for Conservation