During a two-week period in August 2011, kids from northern Virginia experienced a special outdoor adventure known as Camp S.E.E.D. (Students Encouraging Environmental Discovery). Camp S.E.E.D. campers spend a week exploring the outdoors at National Park sites including Great Falls Park and Shenandoah National Park. Along the way, the campers learn about the nature and history of these areas while they climb rocks, hike trails, and camp out underneath the stars.
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Each camp ends at Shenandoah National Park where the campers spend three days in the park. For many, this is their first experience camping overnight. As they hike with park rangers discovering plants, animals, and mountain habitats, they are challenged to complete the requirements to become official "Ranger Explorers." Campers also learn first-hand about natural resource restoration and "Leave No Trace" outdoor ethics principles by working with park staff on service projects to remove invasive exotic plants and rehabilitate illegal backcountry camp sites.
By completing all the physical activities during Camp S.E.E.D., the campers meet the challenges of the Let's Move Outside! initiative, part of First Lady Michelle Obama's nationwide campaign to end childhood obesity and reconnect kids with the great outdoors for a healthier and active lifestyle. After hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail in the park, one camper declared, "This place is special because it can teach you about nature and the environment. The trail can also test your will!"
Campers have been awed by the mountaintop views, the sunset, the stars, wildlife sightings, and the quiet. One camper summed up his experience: "We had so much fun outside! We don't want to leave."
Camp S.E.E.D. is a partnership program between Northern Virginia Community College, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, and the National Park Service.