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Club funding camp Quest

Program at Sargent Center, run by Nature’s Classroom

Going away to summer camp is a rite of passage for many young people, a chance to make new friends, spend time swimming, canoeing or hiking and experiment with living at least somewhat independently. But for many middle schoolers, a summer camp experience isn’t possible, often due to financial reasons. Now the Peterborough Rotary Club is working to give those students an opportunity to experience the benefits of an overnight camp by funding a one-week program to be known as ConVal Quest for 75 students in the ConVal district.

“I think we may have more than 100 students interested,” said Rotary Club member Andy Peterson of Peterborough recently. “We really want to have a good first-year showing and hopefully people will support seeing it expanded.”

The program will be held from Sunday, July 6, through Friday, July 11, at Sargent Center in Hancock. It will be run by Nature’s Classroom, the organization that has been doing outdoor educational programming at the Hancock retreat for several years.

Kobe Biederman, the camp and conference director for Nature’s Classroom, said the program will be very structured, with students spending about two hours each morning on scientific projects involving field investigations. In the afternoon, campers will each do three different outdoor activities, working on the same activities for four consecutive days in order to build their skills.

“We have sea kayaking, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, archery, outdoor cooking, photography, a high ropes course,” Biederman said. “When campers sign up, we’ll ask them to rank about six choices, in the order they prefer. There’s also a free activity time before dinner, for swimming or games.”

Evening activities will include group games or options like a night hike or a paddle on Half Moon Pond, Biederman said. Rotary members will also be on hand in the evenings to spend time with campers.

Biederman said the Nature’s Classroom motto is “Kinship, Environment and You,” and the program will emphasize growth in those three areas, with an educational focus on inquiry using science, math and vocabulary.

ConVal Quest was initially intended as a two-week camp, to be funded by both the Rotary Club and the ConVal School District. The district’s budget proposal included $40,000 for the program, but that money was cut after the budget was turned down by voters. Peterson said the Rotary Club members will be raising the $40,000 needed to run the camp as a one-week program.

Middle school officials will still be involved in helping recruit and identify campers. Peterson said they will be asked to determine if the program will be of value to a given student and to identify students whose families might not be able to afford a summer camp program. He said about 40 South Meadow School students have already expressed an interest.

Great Brook School Principal Jim Elder said a meeting will be held tonight for students and parents at his school.

“I really hope we’ll be able to fill all the slots,” Elder said on Tuesday. “This should be a great experience for kids.”

Peterson said he expects the camp will be a success. “It’s not like a day camp; it’s a total immersion experience,” he said. “You don’t bring all the electronics that kids use now. You’re outdoors, getting to know kids from the other school, relating to one another. We’re looking forward to this being of real value.”

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