Spring Family Day

By Daniel R. Puryear on Nov. 22, 2019

Photo of Fall Family Day participants standing on peer.

The great outdoors are bound with endless possibilities and researchable and explorable areas. The Rice Rivers Center and the Outdoor Adventure Program have partnered together to bring students to nature and allow them to study and experience all it has to give.

Rice Rivers Center and the Outdoor Adventure Program have created summer camps that allow 4th - 11th grade students to explore and learn using the access and facility that the Rice Rivers Center provides. Outdoor Adventure Program staff members guide these students and provide lessons as well as an interactive experience.

Katie Schmidt, Outdoor & Environmental Education Graduate Assistant, has been heading up this partnership.

“Different camps will address kids from 4th grade through 11th grade. The programs will focus on encouraging students relationship with the natural world through both outdoor adventure and the sciences. Students will learn how to be a better adventurer and enjoy the outdoors responsibly with leave no trace principles . The goal for kids is to stimulate their interest and encourage them to discover more on their own,” Schmidt explained. “Being outside and connecting with nature has incredible benefits for students such as cognitive development, enhancing creativity and problem solving, independence, social relationships, and attention restoration. Studies have also shown that more time in nature reduces stress, increases physical and mental health, and can increase happiness. All of the above are desperately needed considering kids are usually looking at screens all day.”

The O.A.P. and the Rice Rivers Center will be hosting three different camps throughout the upcoming summer with staggered dates. Camps are split into age groups that allow for more specific and structured learning and guidance.

“For the younger kids we will spend more time on land and have hands-on learning with science each day. Campers will learn about local flora and fauna along with the role they play in the ecosystems of Virginia. The day camps are geared to introduce students to the world of science outside of the classroom and get them excited about being outdoors.

In our overnight program for high school students they will learn the basics of expedition planning and management and how to take care of themselves when they’re on a multi-day trip. During this four day paddling trip we will carry our own gear and camp out under the stars while learning about the James River and the James River watershed,” Schmidt stated. “[Participants] will also learn a little bit of the natural and cultural history of the James River.”

Schmidt and her team at the O.A.P. are hosting a Spring Family Day on March 23, 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. The event is designed for families to come experience what the Rice Rivers Center has in store for the upcoming summer camps.

“[Spring Family Day participants] can see the facilities and get to experience a sample platter of what we will do at the camps themselves. They get to see the Center, go canoeing, and do a nature hike where they’ll learn about bird and tree identification. We will have a surprise for folks this Spring too, something that the families can take home and continue growing together. This event also gives our staff an opportunity to meet the parents and for the parents to meet our staff so they know who will be working with their kids throughout the summer,” Schmidt remarked.

Most people do not know that V.C.U. has the Rice Rivers Center in Charles City, Virginia. The 350 acre facility includes an education building, lodge, boathouse and pier.

“[The Rice Rivers Center] is a pretty big campus, we have a lot of access to the forest and open spaces for games. We have access to a protected tidal creek, which is great for canoeing and, when participants are ready for it, we can take them out on the bigger part of the James. The Rice Rivers Center is in the James River Estuary and it gets really wide and depending on which direction the tide is going it can be difficult to paddle. We have this unique opportunity where we can take kids on outdoor adventures but in a protected learning environment. This  lends itself to being able to focus more on education and exploration,” Schmidt explained.

When asked what she hoped the students could take away from the camp, Schmidt had a heartening outlook.

“Hmmm, a sense of wonder. The James River is incredible and we have such a fascinating watershed right in our backyard.  Our relationship and history with this river is wild and you could spend your whole life studying it. After one week with us, we hope that our students are instilled with a better appreciation for the natural world and the realization that they can go out and play and explore and have fun,” Schmidt said.

Registration for Spring Family Day is open through March 20. The price includes a lunch, activities, equipment and instruction. Interested participants are also welcome to stay after the family day activities for the second installment of the Dutch Oven Delights event.