Thanks to an unnamed donor, more than 100 children attended camps at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science this summer free of charge.
Four sessions were held at the main campus at Gloucester Point for younger children, while one session was held at VIMS’s Eastern Shore Laboratory for older youth.
Sarah McGuire, education coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at VIMS, said that "Sea Squirts" was held in late June for 15 rising first and second graders. That camp, which accommodated 15 children, involved exploring marshes and wetlands and investigating the underwater world of Chesapeake Bay.
A total of 50 children in two August sessions comprised the "Green Gurus." These sessions, for rising third and fourth graders, were a way for the youngsters to learn about ways to protect and preserve the bay environment, McGuire said, by taking part in activities like seining in the York River and creating a nature journal.
McGuire said "Chesapeake Champions" drew 25 rising fifth and sixth graders July 5-9. That camp, like the others, ran Monday through Friday, with children attending activities each morning and afternoon for one week. "Chesapeake Champions" was geared so students could "explore a variety of Chesapeake Bay habitats," a VIMS release said.
"Estuary Explorers" drew 16 rising seventh and eighth graders. McGuire said those campers stayed overnight at a dormitory at the VIMS lab on the Eastern Shore, where they explored the bay in depth and visited both the bay and Atlantic Ocean sides of the Eastern Shore. Campers canoed, collected animals on boat trips, studied dune ecology and participated in other activities from July 26-31.
The anonymous donor pledged funds to the VIMS Foundation to provide summer camps for children for five years, McGuire said, with about 90 children participating during the inaugural camps last summer. CBNERR staff meet with the donor each winter to discuss how the summer programs went and to talk about ideas for the upcoming summer’s camps.
McGuire said slots are very competitive and a lottery system is used.
Besides the popular camps, CBNERR staff offers a myriad of educational programs throughout the year, both at VIMS and at schools throughout the state.