By Nikki Reiff, Outdoor Center Program Director
Sometimes you need to stop and smell the flowers, and sometimes you need to stop and save the flowers. Here at Camp Mason, we do both. What I mean by this, is that when visitors come here-they are immersed in a culture where stewardship and sustainability take the forefront. Sometimes it’s in the form of litter picking as you head to an activity, often times in the form of an environmental education class that creates an understanding of why protection of the environment is so important, and sometimes it’s palpable.
This past week, the French American School of New York brought their 6th grade class to Camp Mason for a unique outdoor experience. Aside from zip-lining through the trees, orienteering themselves through the woods, and forging group bonds in our Low Ropes course—they built bat boxes from scratch as a service project to our camp, and to the entire north east. Bats in the north east are important animals that help maintain an ecosystem and are of great service to humans. One colony can consume more than 250,000 mosquitos a night, and they also predate on pesky invasive species, such as tent caterpillars, that threaten a forests’ health or farmland. These bats are threatened for a few reasons- fungal infections that gets spread in some hibernacula (or habitats), the installation of wind turbines, and destruction of habitat in forests. All of these reasons can be summarized as unsuitable habitat. So in a matter of 3 days, a team of naturalists and a couple dozen students addressed this problem and created new habitat for 5 colonies of local bats.
Facilitation of activities like this are not uncommon here at Mason. The Outdoor Center team incorporate sustainability and stewardship into nearly every program here. Giving back to the earth or to one another is a recurrent theme across team building, recreation, and environmental classes all the same. In the fall, NJ District Circle K help Camp Mason with litter picks along nearby roads and streams. In the spring, United Nations International School visited and created water-awareness murals with the same idea in mind–to make a difference. St. Lukes School helped us remove invasive species along our trails. We are always looking to unite with schools and groups to complete more projects like this!
So whether it’s composting our brown napkins, maintaining trails, or physically creating animal shelters When you take a moment to look around at our guests and staff alike, its’ easy to see that stewardship and sustainability are key values we hold dear to us at YMCA Camp Mason. And if you don’t see that, you’d have to be blind as a bat.*
*Bats actually are not blind, they however, use echolocation to hunt rather than their vision. But you get the point!