Aug 7th, 2017

From Camper to Volunteer

Summer camp volunteer Jacob, right, with a summer camp program.

Jacob, on right squatting, worked his way up from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden camper to summer camp youth volunteer.

Each summer since Jacob was 4, he’s spent a week in Richmond, visiting his grandmother who runs our Garden Shop and spent the mornings at Green Adventures Summer Camp exploring nature at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  Jacob has participated in all the camps over the years and even some camps that we no longer offer. He’s studied critters, dug in the dirt, made compost, learned about worms, planted a vegetable garden and asked lots of great questions.

When Jacob aged out of summer camp here at Lewis Ginter, he didn’t want to give up the tradition of spending a week each summer at the Garden, so he decided to come back as a summer camp youth volunteer. Now Jacob is 14, a rising freshman in high school.

“I’ve enjoyed being a helper at camp as much as I’ve enjoyed being a camper,” he says. Not that being a youth volunteer is always as easy. Jacob says he likes that the camp teaches children about the environment and why it’s important to protect it.  He points out that before camp, a child might not really understand what a wetland is, but after, they understand how it’s a very valuable part in a complex ecosystem. He says his favorite part of summer camp is watching all the kids have fun, but he’s also quick to point out that it’s not all easy.  Jacob recently graduated from an International Baccalaureate program for middle school and mentioned how that curriculum helped him be “balanced and reflective” when working with the children and has helped him be a better summer camp youth volunteer.  There was one particular child and  Jacob mentioned that  he noticed things weren’t going very well with her.  He said he wanted to do a better job, so he talked it over with his grandmother and after reflecting on the situation, realized it might be helpful to try a different approach.  “I was nicer,” he said, “I allowed her to become more engaged.”

I asked him why he makes a good summer camp youth volunteer, “I know how they feel on the first day of camp and also on the last day. I can help them fit in,” Jacob says.

Jacob says the camp has changed him too.  “It’s made me appreciate plants more. I’ve also come to appreciate how everyone is so different. You see 15 kids, for five days straight and you come to appreciate their differences.”

Summer camp volunteer Jacob in front of the Conservatory.

Summer camp volunteer Jacob in front of the Conservatory.

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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