Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Venture Outdoor Camp in Review

The last two weeks of camp have been jam packed with adventures! We were lucky to have Venture Outdoors leading camp!

The kids were able to learn more about the outdoors, take field trips and just enjoy being outside!! Here is a quick rundown of all the adventures the kids went on!

Week 1:

The kids met two of the several Venture Outdoors staff that would be working with us this camp! We spent the day at ALEC getting to know Mr. AJ and Ms. Lo.

They went over with the kids a list of behavior expectations, how to respect nature and even played some team building games!

The kids weren't too enthused about the team building games at first, but quickly got into it once they saw how much fun they were!


Due to the crazy amount of rain Pittsburgh has been getting this summer, we were almost unable to go hiking due to high river levels.  But we lucked out and the river levels were low enough for us to go!  Most of the kids had never been out in a kayak before and were kinda nervous.  But Venture Outdoors did a great job easing their worries!

We fitted the kids in life-jackets, handed out paddles, found kayak ourselves a kayak buddy and were given a lesson in kayaking.  The kids were taught the proper way to hold a paddle, how to stroke forwards AND backwards, how to turn the kayak around and the importance of working with your kayak buddy because if you and your buddy aren't moving your paddles together then you don't move!

After our lesson, we headed out onto the river! We went under six bridges that day! And under every bridge, Mr. AJ and the other Venture Outdoors staff would gather the kids and talk about the different bridges we were passing under.  By the time we started to head back to the dock, the kids had the hang of kayaking and it was a race to see who could make it back to the dock first!

The kids (and staff) were surprised at how wet you get from kayaking!  Luckily it was a hot day and the cool water felt great!

What a great day for a hike! We met Mr. AJ and Ms. Iris up at our very own Grandview Park to hike on the trails.

The kids have hiked in Grandview before, but this time we went down a different trail that they hadn't been on!  It had rained the night before so it was a bit humid and some spots of the trail were muddy, which the kids weren't too thrilled about.  Especially because that meant there were a lot of bugs! One of our kids loves bugs and found many new friends that day in addition to learning some names of new bugs from our Venture Outdoors friends.

Ms. Iris kept stopping the kids at different points along the trail to point out different kinds of plants and to show them that some of the plants were edible. Remember: do NOT eat plants unless you are 100% sure they are safe to eat!!

That was a very important lesson Ms. Iris taught the kids that day.  On Monday, the kids learned different rule about how to respect nature.  During our hike, we saw a lot of trash and even a fire pit that had not been properly taken care of and Mr. AJ and Ms. Iris used that opportunity to remind the kids the importance of taking care of nature.

Today the kids were given a lesson in survival 101.

The first thing we did was split up into two groups, Mr. AJ and Ms. Iris gave the kids some tarp and rope and had them build a shelter. One group finished first while the second was struggling to work together to build a shelter.  After the kids attempting their shelter, Mr. AJ and Ms. Iris talked to the kids about what techniques worked and what didn't, showed them how to make a proper shelter and talked with the kids about the importance of having a proper shelter while hiking.  The kids were even able to go inside the shelter and hang out in there for a bit!

Next, Mr. AJ and Ms. Iris talked about first aid and what to do if someone gets hurt and you're stuck in the middle of the woods.  They even had the kids practice wrapping each others wrists and ankles and showed them the right way to wrap an injury, which is a handy skill to have! After first aid, Mr. AJ and Ms. Iris went over the importance of water!

You can't just drink any old water while you're hiking, it has to been clean water so that it doesn't make you sick.  They brought with them a miniature filtration system that is easy to take with you while camping, showed the kids how it worked and then gave them a drink of clean water!

Week 2:

Let's go ride our bike!! Venture Outdoors took the Brashear kids to the North Shore to ride some bikes!

Many of our kids have ridden a bike before but some of the kids and staff members had never learned and were a bit nervous!  But everyone decided to face their fears and give the two-wheeler a chance.

Even though they faced their fears, some of the kids decided that they would be more comfortable riding a three-wheeler down the trails.  We are always proud of our kids when they take a risk and try something new.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day for a bike ride and the kids were all smiles.

Back to Grandview Park!  Instead of hiking another trail, Mr. Evan and Ms. Iris had the kids do some geocaching!

Some of the Brashear kids went geocaching during this last winter with Venture Outdoors.  The kids were split up into groups of four and were handed maps of Grandview Park, markers and a GPS.  The point of geocaching is to make a little something out of nature (like a little tepee out of sticks and leaves, for example) and then you document the location of your creation in the GPS.

Once the kids made about four caches, the groups switched GPS and tried to find each others caches! Some groups found the caches easier than others.  While in Grandview we saw something really awesome: a family of hawks!  The kids saw a really big bird and we set out to figure out what they were.  It was a mom, dad and baby hawk!

 It was really cool to see wildlife in the park that you just don't normally see every day!

Back to the river for kayaking round two!

The kids were definitely more comfortable kayaking the second time around.  The kids got their life-jackets and another refresher lesson on how to kayak and we were off to the water!

We didn't go as far down the river this time around, but that's because Mr. Evan and Ms. Iris had us play sharks and minnows, in our kayaks!  Its harder than you would think!

Every adventure we have taken the kids on the last two weeks has led up to this moment: a three mile hike through Frick Park.

The sky was clear and the sun was hot.  Luckily, most of the hike was under the shade of trees. Throughout the hike, Ms. Iris kept stopping the kids to point out things like wild raspberries, poison ivy and to tell the kids the difference between white and red oak trees.

We sure learned a lot more about the different kinds of plants that grow in nature!  During our hike, we even found some snake skin along the trail! Once we made it through the trail, we ended our last day of Venture Outdoors camp at the park.

It was a great day!

Thank you Venture Outdoors for spending two weeks with us at ALEC!  The kids had a blast getting outside and learning more about nature!

- Jen


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