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A week-long summer camp program in Cumberland has raised the interest in outdoor education in the Comox Valley.— Image Credit: Submitted by Michael Briones – Comox Valley Echo

A week-long summer camp program in Cumberland has raised the interest in outdoor education in the Comox Valley.

Hand-in-Hand Early Years Nature Education offered the program through the Village of Cumberland Recreation Department. It drew 14 children aged three to five-years old.

Director Jarett Krentzel said it has helped parents see for themselves what they will be offering when school starts on Sept. 8.

“The full week was a condensed version of what the full year would look like,” said Krentzel. “We followed the same schedule that we would have in the full year to give the children and their parents a pretty good insight.”

The theme of the summer camp was “secret animal of the day.” Children were given clues, stories and sang songs about the animal of the day which they had to guess and also find after. The animals included slugs, crows and ravens, mosquitoes, and spiders.

“They had an amazing time,” said Krentzel. “Parents that were on the fence on whether they wanted to enrol their kids for the full year got the chance to see what the school is all about.”

Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education is a new outdoor educational program in the Comox Valley that provides early learning experience for pre-school kids. The classroom is the natural environment.

Krentzel said this unique type of learning approach for young children is a growing trend that is garnering a lot of support not only here but in other communities as well.

“Environmental education has sort of been shunned in the school systems for many years,” said Krentzel. “Now, everyone, including politicians, are realizing we have to start educating our youth because everyone is aware that the environment is in some sort of a crisis. Unless we make the environment a priority, that crisis is going to continue. So why not start the foundation of environmental education right at the pre-school level. Because of that, there’s a lot of nature schools popping up all over.”

Krentzel said the Cumberland Community School has also started their first nature kindergarten.

“There was such a high demand for that, that they now offer two classes, because there’s so many parents and families who are interested in this type of education and what it offers to the children.”

Hand-in-Hand follows the same school year calendar. It opens on Sept. 8. It has a Seeds Program for three-year-old children that runs every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The Roots Program for four-year-olds is held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. It will be held at the Coal Creek Historic Park.

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