Camp connects kids to their coastal environment

Discover. Move. Learn. Play. Explore. These were words used to describe what kids would be doing at a week-long Coastal Connections Camp led by Alaska Sea Grant’s education specialist, Leigh Lubin, in Valdez last month.

Seven kids, ages 11 to 13, attended the experiential learning camp focused on coastal ecosystems and self development. Over the course of the week, campers tried paddleboarding and sea kayaking, hiked in the forest, and explored tide pools. Activities included hands-on science experiments, creative arts, and personal journaling. Learning objectives focused on developing observation skills such as noticing patterns in nature, formulating questions and developing hypotheses. Each student had a field journal for recording personal observations. They also learned team-building and group leadership skills.

boy looks at micro organisms in a plastic tub next to river
Looking at macroinvertebrates collected from a creek. Photo courtesy of Leigh Lubin

“It was a good balance of activity and downtime, a balance of exploration, science, art, personal skills and team building,” said Lubin.

A favorite activity for the group was sampling macroinvertebrates in several different streams, and then comparing the diversity and abundance from one location to the next. “The kids were shocked at what they found in the rivers,” said Lubin. “It was inspiring to see them get excited about exploring the world around them and places they hadn’t been to before. None of them had looked in the streams for macroinvertebrates before, and it was neat to see them make the connections to the larger food web and watershed sources.”

At the end of the week, many of the kids said they felt more confident, wished the camp were longer, and would recommend it to others. One participant shared that she appreciated getting outside every day.

The camp was sponsored by the City of Valdez Parks and Recreation Department. The City provided a van, art materials, an assistant to help Lubin, and funding for a local sea kayaking guide service, Anadyr Adventures. The City also advertised the camp and managed registration. Steve Radotich guided the stand up paddleboard outing. 

The camp serves as a pilot project for Lubin, who plans to develop a program to train teachers to incorporate marine education, marine literacy, team building, leadership and personal skills into a variety of educational offerings for kids. For example, this program can be implemented as a stand alone summer option, a pre-school week for kids who need additional connection or support, or as a welcome week for schools to begin the school year and optimize the learning environment for the year. 

People sitting near a river writing in journals
Journaling next to a stream during Coastal Connections camp. Photo courtesy of Leigh Lubin

“I want to create a framework for teachers that both provides resources and demonstrates how science literacy, community building, and personal resilience can be weaved together into one cohesive experience that connects students to their coastal surroundings,” explained Lubin.

The Coastal Connections Camp took place June 13–17, at various locations around Valdez. For more information, contact Leigh Lubin.

kids stand on beach with kayak paddles
Coastal Connections campers geared up for kayaking. Photo courtesy of Leigh Lubin