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Michigan camp lets children explore outdoors

April 9, 2018

BELLAIRE, Mich. (AP) — One thing united the five kids exploring Grass River Natural Area on spring break — dirt.

Their jackets, hats, boots and gloves were covered in the stuff by the third day of their 2018 spring break day camp.

“Camp is about getting kids to spend time outdoors, day after day,” James Dake, the education director at Grass River Natural Area, told the Travers City Record-Eagle .

Dake has led summer, winter and spring break camps at the nature preserve since starting his job there four years ago.

This year, they were lucky they didn’t have to cancel the spring camp. Sometimes the nearly mile-long road to the Education Center is too muddy for most cars.

Dane Moazeni, 6, carried a log nearly twice his size, maneuvering it through the wet earth and around still-standing trees. The group of kids had spent three days of camp building shelters from wood they found in the forest. They didn’t hesitate to lift branches larger than themselves and dive onto the forest floor to sit inside the shelter.

The days consisted of other outdoor activities, like tree-tapping for maple syrup, art projects, hiking and bird-watching.

“Nothing is my favorite, I just love it all!” said Jillian Moazeni, 8, while walking from one activity to the next.

Owen Turick, on the other hand, would describe himself as more of an indoor kid. It was his parents’ idea to send him to the camp. But the 12-year-old from Elk Rapids certainly learned a lot during the three days and could see himself taking some outdoor activities home with him.

“It kind of encouraged me to go outside more,” Turick said. He mentioned his favorite game of the week was called “Flinch” and he would definitely play it again.

“Research shows if kids spend more time outdoors and have more experiences outdoors, they’re more likely to be stewards,” Dake said.

When the kids leave camp at the end of the day, the nature preserve’s motto “Yours to explore, yours to protect” sends them on to their next adventure.

The Record-Eagle series “This land” documents the work and traditions of residents in the Grand Traverse region whose lives are inextricably intertwined with the land, wildlife and water abundant in the Mitten state’s northern reaches.

The regular installments will span northern Michigan’s sprawling landscape of dunes, water, hills, vineyards and orchards, telling stories of people from all walks of life who dedicate their time to working and worshipping our natural places.

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com

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