Connecting kids with nature for the benefit of kids and the planet — I can’t think of a better topic for my first post on the Disney Parks Blog.
Last month, Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment cast members teamed up with Walt Disney World Community Relations to offer a special spring conservation day camp to 120 Central Florida children.
The first through eighth grade campers got a chance to connect with nature and meet animals from five continents, including those in our own backyard here in North America, during the camp at the Walt Disney World Resort. The children, who were selected from Central Florida neighborhood centers, attended camp during their week-long school vacations.
In addition to activities and adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, campers took field trips to The Seas with Nemo & Friends and the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Highlights included making special treats for some of the animals, including preparing cantaloupe slices, corn on the cob and other special food treats to be hung as enrichment in the bat habitat at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After making the enrichment, campers headed to the Maharajah Jungle Trek and watched as the fruits and vegetables were hung by an animal keeper. The campers were delighted to watch the bats enjoy the treats — the campers knew exactly which ones they had made!
“With a philanthropic focus on children and conservation, we believe this kind of exposure could spark a life-long passion, or even career aspiration, for conservation,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations for Walt Disney World Resort. “Through this experience, we hope these day campers will feel empowered to become champions for wildlife and nature and affect change to make the world a better place for all of us.”
At the end of the week, we asked the campers what they will do to help wildlife and nature — and their responses were inspiring! They ranged from walking and riding bikes instead of driving, to saving water, energy and other natural resources, to protecting wildlife habitats so animals can not only survive but thrive. By helping these kids develop life-long conservation values through nature exploration and discovery, we hope to stimulate creativity and inspire life-long learning in these kids, as well as create a vision for a future filled with nature.
In the words of Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young, it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
Take a look at the video and see how much fun connecting with nature can be, muddy hands, grass-stained sleeves and all!