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RIC Launches Summer Nature Camp

Saturday, August 10, 2013

 

Chef Page Breton demonstrates how to make salsa from the produce grown in RIC's garden.

Rhode Island College is dragging kids away from junk food, iPhones, iPods, and video games and taking them back to nature with its newly launched Nature Camp for children aged 7-12. Held on the college campus, campers spend all day outdoors exploring all there is to see and do on the 180-acre campus, home to turkeys and other wildlife, a greenhouse, a beehive, and a vegetable garden.

Off to a great start, one morning was spent in the garden to learn more about growing food, an important lesson to RIC Sustainability Coordinator, Jim Murphy. “It’s great to have kids learn the importance of locally grown food," said Murphy, who is also the creator of the Nature Camp. "We grow a little of everything. In fact, the garden yielded so much lettuce this summer that the Environmental Club donated it to Amos House in Providence.” The Environmental Club is also involved in the camp, as president Rene Breton '14 and vice president John Fulton '15 serve as Nature Camp leaders.

A lesson in snacking

The kids enjoyed a tasty demonstration when Page Breton, Rene's sister, a chef for Dog Lane Café in Connecticut, came by to show the kids how to make salsa and smoothies from produce picked from the garden. Under a shady tree, the young campers watched as Page sliced and diced, and sprinkled and tasted.

“I’m making a simple peco de gallo-style tomato salsa out of basil, garlic, onions, jalapeño peppers, sesame oil, salt and pepper, and lime," Breton explained. "I wanted to make a meal that is best for the summer when tomatoes are ripe and sweet and you can find almost all of the vegetables you need from the garden."

In addition to folding a lesson about 'local first' into snacktime, there was even more to love about the activity. “What is also nice is that the children are not only learning how to grow their own foods and to eat healthy, they are learning it in the context of community,” Breton said. “Working in the garden and eating meals together is a communal activity that generates a good feeling in itself.”

These campers aren’t the only ones enjoying the garden. Jeff Simson, a custodial worker at RIC’s Office of Physical Plant, has been a caretaker of the “mini farm” all summer. He waters and weeds after work, and even on weekends. He also creates art installations from items found in nature and places them along the periphery of the site. The hope, said both Simson and Murphy, is to get the entire campus involved in the garden.

Next up for Murphy’s campers will be a visit from a local children’s book author, who will lead the kids in an exercise about writing from their experiences. The Nature Camp will also see the outdoor adventurers learn the importance of bees to agriculture during a tour of RIC’s beehive, engage in art activities, and much more, as Mother Nature beckons.

 

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