As a child, summer vacation meant no classrooms and often, no walls. The world was like a blank book, open to a page where you could write that day’s adventure as you lived it. I remember bike rides down to the creek, bike convoys down to the tennis courts, or magical lands created around the base of the gigantic beech tree in the yard, which became an island.
This free time was good at keeping us occupied, using our imaginations, and I’d guess at keeping us out of our parents’ hair and houses. We didn’t have air conditioning, but we knew where the hose was and how to hook up the sprinkler. Front yard baseball, roller skating, and drawing with chalk were alternative uses for the driveway.
I think back on those days fondly, and now as a responsible working adult yearn for a summer vacation. I would use it for the same things – activities that I enjoy and want to spend more time doing. Oddly enough, to the child version of myself, many of today’s activities would seem like work. Gardening, harvesting food, cleaning the garage, improving the chicken coop, and actually finishing the long-since-almost-done house projects are a couple of them.
I do get snippets of “vacation” and cherish them, going to my family reunion (I actually do like this, I love my family), visiting with college friends, or the occasional foray to a local treasure like Jakes Rocks or Rimrock. I also spend some of that vacation time being idle. I sit on the porch and watch the world – deer wandering through the brush with their fawns bounding behind, swallows learning to fly like acrobats, and sometimes it seems as if I can actually see the garden growing this time of year.
Most of my typical “summer vacation” time (and that of the other Audubon staff members) is spent making sure that others have an incredible time during their vacations. Audubon provides eight weeks of Day Camp for kids to have some of the same outdoor experiences I had at their age. Audubon also has some programs open to the public, like Little Explorers on the second Saturdays of the month, First Fridays on the first Friday on the month, and Nature Play Days on the third Saturdays of the month.
Want something bigger? The first Dragons, Fairies, and Elves, Oh My! festival just wrapped up and Audubon is gearing up for the Wild 5K on the trails and the Wild America Festival at Panama Rocks. It is a great opportunity to explore the trails at a different pace or to participate in a great coming together of nature enthusiasts. Both events are open to all ages and you can find more information at auduboncnc.org/wild5k or wildamericafest.com including registration links, times, and details.
Audubon is also working with the Jamestown Public School District this year as a partner in their summer camps. Some kids will be coming on field trips to the Nature Center. Others will walk down to Chadakoin Park to experience nature first hand with both Audubon and Roger Tory Peterson Institute. Still, others will explore the wild areas adjacent to their schools to learn and play.
You might run into Audubon in the north county doing programs at Lake Erie State Park. Or perhaps you might catch us at the Jamestown farmer’s market with a pop-up nature play area. Another opportunity is at Chautauqua Institute at a variety of events and programs.
To make sure kids are laughing, have muddy knees, and their hands are full of natural treasures is a pretty good way to spend summer vacation. To amaze with live animals and entertain with the forest and fields is a remarkable way to stay busy. To provide a vibrantly alive respite from the scheduled world and paths to sooth the harried souls is a great presence to maintain. Thinking about it, being part of so many people’s incredible summer vacations is an honor.
Thank you for including us in your summer plans. If you haven’t yet, there is still time to run into us this summer.
Sarah Hatfield is Education Coordinator at ACNC.
Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.