The past meets the future, from our backyard to yours! Remember when we could be outside all summer? Now’s your chance – with your very own “sit spot.” Ever wish you had a mentor to help you discover the secrets of nature around your house? Now you will!
All ages can join us for Virtual Secret Spot, the summer camp version of our Neighborhood Naturalist training. It’s based on the “sit spot” concept of nature education: using the scientific method of studying a “control group” location from which to compare other areas of nature. It’s the ultimate STEAM Educational experience!
Register as a household unit, join with other families, and make new friends! We leave it up to parents to decide if their children are old enough to participate, as well as whether to participate alongside them online and outside during the day. Our virtual offerings include:
- Virtual Secret Spot 2020 Schedule & Registration
- Full Summer Schedule & FAQs including Daily Schedule & Instructors
- Virtual Academic Year 2020-21: Wolf Journey Earth Conservation Course – Book One: The Neighborhood Naturalist
Virtual Secret Spot – The Neighborhood Naturalist Camp for Kids, Youth & Family
Virtual Secret Spot leads campers on a path to becoming your neighborhood naturalist. Begin the journey by finding a secret “sit spot” where you can walk intimately in nature. By the time you complete this camp, you will have become a key resource on the natural world for your neighborhood.
We put the S-T-E-A-M in STEAM Education. We’re all about science, but we use the arts of nature to teach it – the “it” being a lot of biology when it comes to our Virtual Secret Spot camp online. In fact, it’s applied biology, or ethnobiology – the way humans interact with plants, animals and the elements of nature.
The “sit spot” concept of nature education uses the scientific method – of studying a “control group” location from which to compare other areas of nature. Once a student learns the players and patterns of nature in one area, they can use that place (control group) they know so well to compare it to anywhere else they experience. Students can then quickly recognize the patterns of nature anywhere they go, and therefore quickly identify species new to them which fill patters common to nature everywhere – niches they know from experience.
We also do the “T, E & M” in STEM/STEAM Education as students progress to advanced online camps that require Virtual Secret Spot as a prerequisite. For example, the fundamentals of math are apparent when students begin to observe sign of animal species at their Secret Spot. Similar to how music helps young people understand basic math, humans first developed the capacity for advanced mathematical thinking through the mysteries of wildlife tracking. Presented with evidence that an animal may have been present in one’s study site (Secret Spot), students begin to develop complex thinking to “put 2 and 2 together” and figure out “who” it was, “what” it was doing, “when” it happened, “where” it is now, and “why” it would have been in the area in the first place.
It’s what Wolf Camp founder and virtual camp director Chris Chisholm considers his favorite hobby in life: figuring out mysteries from tracks and sign that animals leave behind. He always suggest that students learn to unravel these mysteries like a detective – and prove their theories with real evidence. Recognize some exciting career paths here anyone?
“Huck’s Song” written by Chris Anderson.
Registration is now open for the following secret spot week options:
- June 15-19 Virtual Secret Spot
- July 29 – July 3 Virtual Secret Spot & Advanced Naturalist (repeat participants who earned a Naturalist Level I Certificate advance further into the Neighborhood Naturalist)
“A buck walked right beneath me!” Exclaimed my 8th grader. “I was so quiet, the buck never even knew I was there!” Our connection to the natural world begins in our own backyards. The leaders at Wolf Camp guided the kids on a week of self discovery and adventure, unlocking the overlooked secrets of our own back yard. From the first moment the online class began, the leaders inspired curiosity, imagination and humor. I also enjoyed watching my kids light up from having learned meaningful crafts like compass work, tracking and foraging. Their field notebooks and assorted collectibles will definitely be a gem to look back on someday, in our 2020 Corona Time Capsule.” – Gabriela Ashford, Port Townsend WA
Registration opens June 5th for the following planned secret spot naturalist week options:
- July 13-17 Virtual Secret Spot & Advanced Naturalist (repeat participants who earned a Naturalist Level I Certificate advance further into the Neighborhood Naturalist)
- July 27-31 Virtual Secret Spot & Advanced Naturalist (repeat participants who earned a Naturalist Level I Certificate advance further into the Neighborhood Naturalist)
Registration opens June 20th for the following planned secret spot naturalist week options:
- Aug 10-14 Virtual Secret Spot & Advanced Naturalist (repeat participants who earned a Naturalist Level I Certificate advance further into the Neighborhood Naturalist)
- Aug 24-28 Virtual Secret Spot & Advanced Naturalist (repeat participants who earned a Naturalist Level I Certificate advance further into the Neighborhood Naturalist)
Weekly Overview of Virtual Secret Spot
Please note: Topics are subject to change based upon your location, instructor preference and camper input.
- Finding Your Secret Spot
- Creating Your Nature Journal (traditional or online)
- Sensory Awareness Skills: The Survival Breath, Owl Eyes, Deer Ears & Fox Walk
- Safety & Essentials: Mitigating Outdoor Risks
- Advanced: Fears vs Risk Management; Barefoot Exploration; Following Water, Weather, Wind & Celestial Bodies;
- Awareness Skills Challenge
- Lostproofing & Navigation
- Plant Scavenger Hunt
- The Critter Shelter & Mapping Your Study Square
- Advanced: Map & Compass Navigation; Mapping Your Amoeba, Geology Challenges
- Nature Art Skills
- Navigation Challenge
- Reptile & Amphibian Challenge
- Bird Songs, Tracks & Sign: Tweet Tweet Zerrrrrrr Doo Doo Doo Doo
- Advanced: Avian Predators & Prey; Fungus, Algae, Lichen, Moss, Fern, Horsetail & Wort Challenges
- Insects & Their Kin
- Arachnid Challenge
- Critter Shelter Reveal, Slug & Bug Race
- Advanced: Becoming Wild; Monocot Projects (Grasses, Rushes, Sedges & Cattails, Orchids & Lilies)
- Mammal Tracking Challenge
- Timed Resource Challenge
- Circle of Life Scavenger Hunt
- Advanced: Neighborhood Naturalist Challenge; Flowering Plant, Tree & Shrub Projects;
These online camp options for youth and family are simple but amazing. The day starts similar to other online classes, where you meet in a private online room with dedicated instructors. Then after receiving inspiration and instructions for the day, you head outside and experience all the possibilities offered around your home. We get together again periodically over the course of the day to review discoveries, assess skills, redirect energies, and build our knowledge of nature. The past meets the future, from our backyard to yours! Click here to register.
Then join us in the fall as we roll out the online edition of Wolf Journey Book One – Trail of the Neighborhood Naturalist on a path to becoming your neighborhood naturalist. Begin the journey by finding a study site where you carry out lessons of Urban & Rural Habitat Conservation throughout the course. Each time you visit your site, you will walk more intimately within the landscape, and by the time you complete the course, you will have become a key resource on the natural world for your community, and perhaps the best expert on habitat conservation in your neighborhood.
Virtual Summer Camp FAQs
What online format will we use? We are currently using Zoom & Google Meet. If you have an alternate preference, please email us your recommendation.
What’s the daily schedule? Virtual Day Camps run Monday-Friday with hours including: (Pacific Daylight Times)
- 8:45-9:00 AM Camp Director & Instructors start the day with camper hellos as they join, parental chats, and a camp song.
- 9:00-10:00 AM Opening Circle with Instructor & Assistant Instructor; 10-12 Outdoor Activity with On-Call Instructor Mentoring including 11 AM Optional Online Snack Break Check-In;
- 12:00-12:30 Virtual Potluck Lunch & Afternoon Instruction; 12:30-2:30 Continued Outdoor Activity with On-Call Instructor Mentoring including 1:30 Optional Online Water Break Check-In;
- 2:30-3:00 Closing Circle, Review, Show & Tell with Instructor & Assistant Instructor; 3-5 PM Extended On-Call Instructor Mentoring including 4 PM Optional Snack Break Check-In for participants who want to continue what they started earlier in the day;
- 5:00-5:15 Camp Director reviews day with lead instructor, assistant instructor, and parents who would like to give/receive feedback.
Is is like online school? No one has thought so yet. Reasons seem to be that because participants are engaged the whole time – live with instructors and fellow campers rather than consuming static slide shows – the virtual camps create real connections between participants. Our multidirectional communication does not seem to cause screen fatigue either, and further, kids report that they are spending time outside more than they ever have before.
What ages can participate? All ages, youth and adult, may participate. You register as a household unit. Depending on enrollment, we may create separate groups based on age and whether parents in the household are participating. We leave it up to parents to decide if their children are old enough to participate, as well as whether to participate alongside them online and outside during the day.
Who are the instructors? This is where Wolf Camp shines. As you can see from the daily schedule above, camp director Chris Chisholm starts and ends the day with a song on guitar, before lead instructors like Don Nguyen and assistant instructors like Lorien MacAuley take Virtual Secret Spot participants on a backyard journey they’ll appreciate throughout their lives. Our goal is to create the safest, most profound online and outdoor experiences possible for all ages.
How are the instructor-student groups arranged? Participants keep the same staff and camp-mates all week. Kim & Chris Chisholm will be instructing the initial pilot weeks of June 1-5 & 8-12 which are only open to Wolf Camp alumni, as a test of the virtual system we have designed. Our ratio for physical camps this year is a tight 4-1, whereas it’s normally 6-1 for our youth camps, and 8-1 for adult/family camps. During pilot virtual weeks, we will determine the number of participants one lead instructor with assistant instructor can effectively and safely handle online: probably 10 households at first. Our seasoned instructors will receive remote training before and during pilot weeks, and we will announce final online student-instructor ratios after receiving feedback from participants in early June.
What if only one member of the household meets the prerequisite for “advanced camps,” can we still register? Yes, that’s fine, but it would be the parent’s responsibility to bring a child without prerequisite up to speed, with the understanding that lacking fundamental skills may create a safety issue or sense of failure. If you have two devices available with adequate band width to run separate live streams, and your household can manage the logistics, then we recommend signing children up for different camp groups.
Can we register for multiple camps at once, including advanced camps, even if we haven’t completed the prerequisite yet? Yes, as long as a camp registration is open, and the prerequisite will be met by the time camp starts, that’s fine.
Can we sign up for a half-day, or can we participate more/less on certain days of the week? Yes and no. Just take your plans into consideration when you choose the your tuition payment level – options listed below. We assume that the younger or more busy a participant is, the more likely they are to spend just the morning session with us, possibly even checking out after the lunchtime session. We hope that every participant, particularly the older someone is, the more s/he will spend the entire day focused on camp. We do recommend that participants not schedule anything else all week, at least not before lunchtime, and preferably not before the 3 PM (Pacific) closing circle is over. We have found over the years that when campers stay the entire time, they learn and retain information far better, and feel much more successful with the experience.
Can we miss the first morning? No on this question, unless someone else in the household can catch a participant up. The day and week builds entirely on the morning session(s). Do everything you can to prepare in advance so there are no tech issues on Monday so you can join around 8:45, or by 9:00 am the rest of the week. (Pacific Times)
Can we get a refund if we cancel or lose interest during the camp week? Please see our refund policy below, which only allows for a full credit if you cancel before the start of camp. To mitigate financial risk, consider paying the $95 deposit to register your household, and then contribute the remainder of your balance during the first day of camp. You can also add additional contributions later in the week if it turns out a parent wasn’t able to participate as planned, meaning a child needed more support from Wolf Camp instructors than anticipated, or more likely, if you find that the virtual camp was better than you imagined.
Cost & Registration
Make a $95 deposit to register your household, and then add an additional balance (at time of registration, or anytime through the first day of camp) depending on your circumstances described below. There may also be material ordering costs: we will provide one-click ordering options from amazon and other sources, as well as “save money and make it at home” options. See registration Step 2 below for materials list TBA.
- $95 recommended for a parent directing off-line child(ren), or households with current financial hardship;
- $195 recommended for one child with full-time parental/nanny support, or low income households with additional children;
- $295 recommended for one child with little parental participation, or two children with parental/nanny support;
- $395 recommended for two children with little parental participation, or three children with parental/nanny support;
Step 1 – Register
Either call us at 425-248-0253 ex. 1 and we will take your registration with a credit card securely over the phone, or use PayPal to register online securely with a credit/debit card or via direct withdrawal from your bank account. Use the link below (might not be visible if you are using “reader view” on your phone or other device) or sign into paypal.com and “send money” to our email address.
Step 2 – After Receiving Confirmation
Order Materials: we will provide one-click ordering options from amazon and other sources when possible, as well as “save money and make it at home” options. The current draft materials list for Virtual Secret Spot includes:
- sharpened pencils (2), eraser
- journal – anything from a spiral notebook to loose computer paper (and hard surface for writing such as a book, clipboard or cookie sheet) to a sketchpad something like this or this.
- colored pencils or crayons
- piece of cardboard (roughly 2′ by 2′) – any random, old piece about that size will do
- ruler or small tape measure
- collecting bag (plastic, paper grocery, etc)
- work/gardening gloves
- magnifying glass of some sort (optional)
- something to sit on (foam pad, camp stool, towel – optional)
- We’ll also help you develop a kit of 10 essentials which are important for all nature adventures.
- Advanced: compass, Google map of your area, and completed 10 essentials in addition to the above list.
If you’d like to make a journal and don’t have any of the items at home, this Amazon.com Back-to-School Kit would be more than enough.
Step 3 for first time virtual camp families, at least two days in advance of camp:
Copy and complete the Virtual Camp Household Registration Form (just once per household – or if you cannot view it, let us know and we will email you a Word version) and share your completed copy with us, keeping your editing access but making Camp Director Chris Chisholm the owner so he can share it with appropriate camp instructors, and we can mutually update/edit the form as days/weeks/years go by. All information remains confidential in perpetuity and will only be shared on a need-to-know basis. The registration form must be completed with input from all participants, as it 1) contains questions our instructors have of everyone involved, and 2) contains agreements for participation that everyone must understand for safety.
Step 4 for first time virtual camp families, at least an hour in advance of camp:
Download software if new to you. We are currently using Zoom & Google Meet. If you have an alternate preference, please email us your recommendation.
Deposits ($100 for day programs, $200 for overnight programs) are not refundable unless we don’t accept your application. If you cancel for any reason, you may receive a full credit good through the following calendar year on appropriate and available programs listed on our schedule, although an additional deposit is needed to secure your spot in the future program. If a program you sign up for is canceled and not rescheduled at a time you can attend, you may receive a full refund except in cases of natural (weather, geologic, wildfire, etc) disasters, epidemics, grid failures, government shutdowns, conflicts or curfews, or other unforeseen emergencies making it unsafe or impossible for staff and/or attendees to reach or use program locations, in which case all payments made will be held by us without expiration date for your future use in appropriate/available programs of your choice. Reasons include the expenditure of funds (property rentals, advertising, materials, admin staff time, etc.) long before programs take place, i.e. deposits make it feasible for Wolf Camp to schedule programs in the first place, but our mutually understood agreement is that Wolf Camp will run the program at the safest available time in the future. Finally, no refund, nor credit, is given if a participant is asked to leave a program for inappropriateness as determined by our kids, youth and adult agreements for participation.
Or email us to be put on our list for this program in the future. We always keep your information absolutely private, and will never share it.