'No Child Left Inside' is aim of Maine Audubon camp programs

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FALMOUTH — Maine Audubon is helping kids get outside this summer with scholarships to its summer day camp programs at Gilsland Farm.

The “No Child Left Inside Initiative” is designed to get kids unplugged and outside, away from video games during Maine’s shortest season.

“What we try to do is … get them off the grid, give them an experience where they are really having fun outside, learning about the environment, the natural world they live in,” said Cathy Stivers, Gilsland Farm education director.

An average day at a Gilsland Farm camp session is centered around a nature theme. Kids begin the day playing games and break out into different activities such as hikes, ponding, and exploring all of the different habitats on the property.

“There’s a lot of a really neat things we’ve had kids see,” Stivers said. “We’ve had kids see a young fawn, 30 feet away that just stared at them. Some got to see a red tailed hawk eating a woodchuck kit. Often (these things happen) right in front of them.”

The summer sessions allow kids to participate in either one- or two-week sessions, aged developmentally. In the two-week sessions campers have the chance to take at least one field trip, usually to Mackworth Island, so that kids can examine a marine environment, Stivers said.

Scholarships are offered on a rolling basis from a fund left to Maine Audubon specifically for that purpose. Scholarship money is available only to children who will be participating in more than one day of a session. Applications should be submitted online at least one week prior to the start of the desired program.

“We’ve typically ended up with unspent money, so we’d really like to broaden our base of participation and have kids of all means be able to attend,” Stivers said.

She also said that this year the number of scholarships offered has increased dramatically because of increased interest in the programs.

“We’d rather see kids come and have the opportunity to go to a camp with some financial help than see (the money) go unspent,” she said.

Amber Cronin can be reached at [email protected] or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter: @croninamber.