Summer has come to a close, and already parents are beginning to register their children for next year’s summer camps. There is currently an array of opportunities for children, families, individuals and businesses to learn about and promote sustainability. However, it can be difficult to find programs that are both informative and entertaining for kids and teenagers.
In Bethesda, Maryland many organizations are implementing programs that seek to pique kids’ interests in activities that advocate for a sustainable lifestyle. Such as summer camps geared toward making recycling fun and teaching campers to practice healthy eating habits by taking field trips to farmer’s markets to pick out the freshest ingredients. Two summer camp programs stand out as promoting green initiatives to children and teenagers: The YMCA of Metropolitan Washington and Montgomery Parks Camps.
The YMCA has a myriad of summer programs for kids of all ages, and even special events open to their curious campers. Janice Williams, Vice President of Program Development for the YMCA, hosted an event called “Thingamajig” twenty-two years ago. It has become a popular annual convention promoting STEM education. Children design their own experiments, which encourages innovation and creativity. Participants play and build projects using entirely used and recycled materials, teaching kids an easy and fun way to reduce waste.
Recyclemania, a weeklong day camp at the YMCA’s Ayrlawn location, is YMCA’s only green program available to children. In this recycling-centric art camp, campers have the chance to create impressive art projects out of materials normally destined for the trash and turn them into impressive art projects. Campers gain a clear understanding that recycling is a vital step in preserving resources on the planet. Reducing waste is a key element of sustainability and part of a smart and conscientious approach to end negative impacts on the environment.
Additionally, Montgomery County Recreation Department hosts summer camps each year, such as those at Brookside Gardens, a nature and education center in Wheaton, Maryland. Montgomery County summer camps include a wide variety of opportunities for children to learn about easy ways to be eco-friendly. One camp in particular, “Farms, Food, Fun and Sun,” enables kids to spend time outdoors and learn about sustainable food choices by picking out local ingredients from a farmer’s market and cooking healthy recipes. The camp promotes a taste of “simple” and “tasty” cuisine.
Brookside Nature Center’s Teens Explaining Nature Environment and Science Camp (T.E.E.N.S.) offers teenagers aged twelve to thirteen years old not only the exciting opportunity to learn skills such as plant/animal identification and monitoring human impact on the environment, but also the unique experience of passing on their knowledge and passion about nature to younger children. T.E.E.N.S. camp allows budding nature enthusiasts to gain knowledge on fascinating subjects while being taught by park professionals proficient in nature and science.
In addition, Montgomery Parks has an elite group of young park trainees known as Nature Ambassadors for teens entering high school. These students apply to assist in running the various activities hosted at the exceptional parks facilities of Montgomery County, including the Locust Grove Nature Center in Bethesda, Maryland. This allows teenagers to delve into subjects such as sustainability and supplement their knowledge with hands-on experience at Montgomery Parks.
While they focus on different (yet very interesting!) subjects, the YMCA and Montgomery County summer camps have the sense of a need to develop in children an enthusiasm for sustainable lifestyles in common. Recycling, eating locally grown produce, and exploring and appreciating nature all ingrain the significance of an individual’s actions and impact on the environment into campers. Sustainability means a viable future for the next generation, and by encouraging children to learn about nature and the environment, they are actively making a sustainable future a possibility for themselves. There are many benefits of sustainability, both for children, but also for the businesses these children will one day run. Just as parents set an example for their children to follow, businesses should want to promote positive change that future generations will perpetuate.
Author: Moira Neve, Walter Johnson High School
“Classes & Camps.” Montgomery Parks, Montgomery County Department of Parks, 2017, www.montgomeryparks.org/classes-camps/.
“Thingamajig Convention.” The Y, YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, 2017, www.ymcadc.org/page.cfm?p=25.
Smith, Harrison. “Build Whatchamacallits at This Festival for Inventive Kids.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 11 July 2016,
Mr.TinDC. “Brookside Nature Center.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 2 Nov. 2010, www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/5139573028.
“Recyclemania (at Ayrlawn PC).” The Y, The YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, 2017, www.ymcadc.org/schedule.cfm?class=15C2ABA2-5056-A828-4979F3E9ACBD2F12.
“Farms, Food, Fun and Sun.” Montgomery Parks, Montgomery County Parks Department, 2017, www.montgomeryparks.org/events/farms-food-fun-and-sun/.