The Youth Garden Project (YGP) and Canyonlands Field Institute (CFI), two local nonprofits focused on outdoor education, forged a new partnership this summer. By creating two weeks of a special YGP/CFI camp, representatives from both organizations say more of Moab’s kids were able to engage in fun, outdoor education programs this summer.
“It’s something new and different for both organizations,” said YGP Program Manager Julie Zender. “CFI doesn’t get to work all the time with local kids and these local kids don’t get to go out to these places that may be second nature to us.”
Instructors from both YGP and CFI were on hand to lead the curriculum during the two weeks of programming, which took place June 27 through July 1 and Aug. 1 through Aug. 5. The camps were designed to provide opportunities to older campers age 7 to 11.
“It just seemed like we had the guides and the resources to provide more summer programming than we had in the past [and] it seemed like there was a lot of demand for daycare for younger kids,” said Stacy Dezelsky, CFI’s office manager. “By taking the older kids eligible for YGP’s regular camp, it created more openings for the really little ones.”
YGP executive director Delite Primus said the two weeks of camp were structured similarly to their organization’s existing day camp programs, but based on CFI’s curriculum. Similar to the YGP summer camps, the two weeks of their partnership had different themes.
During the first week, which was based on the theme, “past, present, and future,” kids explored the dinosaur tracksite at Mill Canyon, visited Moonflower Canyon and the Moab Giants dinosaur park and learned about petroglphys and pictographs along Kane Creek. The second week of camp, which was called “water week,” was designed to enable the camp participants to explore all things water, including fishing at Ken’s Lake, as well as inflatable kayaking and river rafting.
“Lots of kids had never kayaked before, and don’t get to go out on the river even though it’s right there,” Zender said. “They loved it.”
According to Primus, creating these two weeks of extra programming served a direct need in Moab.
“The Youth Garden Project has seen a need in our community for more youth programs throughout the summer,” Primus said. “Our Summer Day Camp has been filling up every year, with waiting lists growing to new levels.”
The new camps also filled up quickly, according to Primus.
“The two weeks of camp filled up within the first week of registrations being open,” she said.
Zender said she really noticed the YGP summer camp wait lists beginning to fill up in 2015.
“Last summer, we had between 10 to 20 extra kids on our wait list,” Zender said. “ ... We are the only place that does all-day programming the whole summer. So we wanted to find a way to offer more programming to more kids because there’s clearly a need.”
In addition to filling that need, Primus added that the partnership combined the strengths of both organizations.
“With CFI’s regular activities being very different than YGP’s, this program is allowing kids to try new things while exploring areas some of them have never been to before,” Primus said.
Zender says the two weeks added to the goal of YGP’s summer camps — which is getting kids outside while providing a safe, fun and educational space for them to explore and learn.
“Just getting outside, getting your hands in the dirt all day long,” Zender said. “A lot of kids would otherwise spend a lot more time indoors. We want them to get outside and have that experience.”
Representatives from both YGP and CFI say they hope to offer the programming again next summer. With the amount of fun the kids had this year during the camps, Zender said, she fully expects to receive a lot of inquiries about the program before next summer.
“The kids will definitely be asking about it,” she said, laughing.