Kids and Nature

Outdoor Summer Camp Resources

April 1, 2007

Too much homework? Bully picking on you at school? Perhaps not, but have you stopped to wonder if your children are yearning for a breath of fresh air? Sometimes, even the ol’ backyard isn’t enough backcountry for a cooped-up kid, which is why we’ve compiled a list of resources to help you find a summer camp or other summer outdoor activities that will help your children get in touch with nature.

Bay Area Kid Fun provides an exhaustive list of summer camps that feature science, technology, animals, nature, and the outdoors. Among their listings are camps for those interested in horses, overnight outdoors adventures, boating, wildlife, farm life, gardening, swimming, and river rafting.

The Berkeley Parents Network is a fount of knowledge when it comes to kids’ camps. Among the camps listed and reviewed are summer and school break camps focusing on animals, the outdoors, and science.

Sprinkled throughout the Ecology Center’s Bay Area Environmental Education Resource Guide are resources such as natural history tours, nature walks, ecology programs, science classes, gardening classes, adventure camps, summer camps, and day camps for land-lubbers and sea-goers alike.

Back when his son was young, parent Tom Lent developed the East Bay Kids: Summer Camp Guide, a self-proclaimed “opinionated guide” to summer day camps for the Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, and El Cerrito area, as well as for residential camps located throughout Northern California. Lent’s list is expansive, and the site includes costs, links, and limited (and outdated) parent reviews, all of which are labeled to indicate when the listings were last updated. has over 3,000 listings for adventure camps in California, including backpacking, canoeing, caving, hiking, hunting, kayaking, mountain biking, mountaineering, orienteering, primitive skills, rappelling, rock climbing, sailing, SCUBA, survival, and whitewater rafting. They also include listings for afterschool programs and special needs camps.

The American Camp Association (ACA) allows camp-hunters to search its database of ACA-accredited camps by state, zip code, or camp name, calling out particular activities, a preferred cultural focus, special needs, affiliations, costs, and duration. Among the nature camps are those focusing on aquatics, backpacking, boating, camping and outdoor living skills, canoeing, caving, climbing, fishing, kayaking, nature studies, rafting, sailing, swimming, and wilderness trips.

Some 40 Bay Area camps are listed on the web stores of both Bay Area Parent magazine (navigate to the Advertising Directory) and their national umbrella organization, Parenthood (navigate to Search Listings and select Camps and Summer Programs from the Category dropdown menu). Each listing includes a brief description and link for more information.

Parents’ Press offers over 300 camps covering the East Bay.

About the Author

Matthew Bettelheim is a freelance writer and a wildlife biologist with URS Corporation.