Originally posted September 27th, 2011. I (Brittany) am now a UW-Madison graduate and a full-time staff member at Care of Creation.
This summer Brittany Ederer, a student at UW-Madison, served as an intern in the Care of Creation office in Madison. Based on her interest in camping, education nature and environment, we assigned her to start a survey project of Christian camps in Wisconsin, the upper Midwest and then throughout the country. Are there Christian camps who are actively promoting creation care as part of their camp program? Are they using creation care principles in caring for their properties? This blog post is a preliminary report on a visit to one camp not far from Madison. It turns out one of the best examples of creation care at camp is right in our own back yard. We’re looking forward to a complete report from Brittany later on, but in the meantime, enjoy her thoughts on what’s going on at Timber-lee…
In mid-August I had the opportunity to visit Camp Timber-lee in East Troy, Wisconsin. Timber-lee is an Evangelical Free camp that is busy year-round with summer camp, retreats, and school programs including Environmental Education. I met with the Environmental Education Instructor/Animal Care Manager, Karen Good, and she showed me around their impressive Science Education Center. My excitement turned to delight when I entered one of their several animal rooms and saw a myriad of snakes, turtles, and other herpetofauna (look it up!).
While I held a beautiful orange and yellow kingsnake, Karen explained that many of their animals were adopted from rescues or donated to the camp. The other room of animals was mostly mammals with a few birds, including a rescue squirrel that could not be released to the wild because he was raised by humans-and now thinks of himself as one too!
The rest of the tour included a spectacular “Seven Days of Creation” exhibit, classrooms with unparalleled insect collections and mounts of animals from around the world, a classroom all about energy and physics, a walk through some of their woods, and a stop at the marsh.
As I continued to chat with Karen, she explained how Timber-lee uses the resources they’ve been blessed with to teach summer camp kids and students alike. I began to realize just how simple it could be to connect people with nature and help them develop a deep, Biblical appreciation and respect for the world God has placed us in.
Here are a few keys to the success of the environmental stewardship focus at Timber-lee:
- They introduce children to the animals in the Nature Center so they interact with living, breathing creatures that have specific habitat and diet needs. In this way, the children can overcome trepidations they may have towards snakes, lizards, etc. while regaining an awe of nature. It’s not always feasible to try and teach young ones about habitat destruction and the economic problems that accompany pollution, but if you can get them to care about the animals, then you’ve given them a reference point for being concerned about the environment as a whole.
- They use what they already have-for instance, they work on the section of forest they have to remove invasive species, they take advantage of the marsh shoreline to show and teach animal tracks, and use protected or endangered species already on the property to teach about conservation (like the kitten tail Besseya bullii, a threatened vascular plant in WI)
- They work with and take advantage of outside organizations, such as wildlife rehabilitation centers and conservation groups. Numerous times rehabilitated wildlife is released on Timber-lee property because they maintain healthy native habitats. They also have received grants from organizations like The Prairie Enthusiasts, which allows them to improve and expand their native prairie areas at camp.
This is a camp I would want my children to attend, because they’re doing it right! The campers learn about what the outside world is like-what animals live where, how to identify their tracks, what a native ecosystem should look like. It’s fun to learn! Outside recreation should include more than wakeboarding or playing basketball, and can be as simple as learning about the trees around the campfire. Also, creation care at Timber-lee isn’t just about how much money they can save or how many “green” products they switch to, but about understanding a little better the heart of God. Timber-lee has prayed and sought the face of God, and He has blessed them with many donations (like an insect collection) that they can use as teaching tools.
As I drove back to Madison, I reflected on a few questions:
- What would it look like for other camps across the USA to take their God-given resources to the next level?
- Many thousands of acres in this country are the property of Christian camps-how many of those acres are harboring invasive species, threatened or endangered species, or near-pristine habitat?
- How many camps are using what they have to actively engage their campers in environmental stewardship?
These are the types of questions I am trying to answer through my internship with Care of Creation, Inc.