Cleaning up horse poop might not be what most kids envision as a “fun” camp activity. But Secaucus resident Alexia Brown, 10, did just that during a recent four-day town environmental camp. And it was a standout experience.
“It was one of my favorite parts,” Brown said. “It was cool, and I sometimes do it at my aunt’s farm.”
The Secaucus Environmental Department holds the camp each year during August’s last week. Now in its fourth year, the 2018 edition took 20 Secaucus students ages 10-14 on different environment – themed field trips each day. It’s also a last chance to enjoy summer before tests, homework, and classrooms take over.
This year, the kids went to a wildlife conservation center in Garfield to learn about different breeds of bats and the environmental dangers to them. They took a tour of butterfly gardens and horse stables at Overpeck County Park in Leonia, where they learned to care for horses. The camp also sponsored a trip to Jersey City’s Liberty Science Center, and a trip to City Green in Clifton, where they learned how to farm, plant, and cook different foods.
Secaucus is Hudson County’s most suburban town, and used to be known for its pig farms. With its location in the Meadowlands, many residents have an interest in nature and the environment.
“Every year we try to mix it up and do different things,” said Environmental Director Amanda Nesheiwat. “There are some things that really stand out. Last year, the kids really loved Liberty Science Center, so we kept that [as a trip].”
“We met a guy – they said he was Batman, but he wasn’t really.”– Alexia Brown
An idea, five years ago
Five years ago, Mayor Michael Gonnelli had an idea to organize a camp for kids dealing with the environment. Because the camp is entirely grant-funded, it has a different sponsor each year. This year’s sponsor was Xchange at Secaucus Junction. Some of the extra funds from this May’s Green Festival also went into funding the camp this year. Previous sponsors include Suez Water, PSEG, and TD Bank.
Who was that masked man?
“I went to this other place, and we learned about bats and how they eat mosquitoes and how they’re good for the environment,” Brown said, about one of the trips. As it turns out, Batman even made an appearance there. Or did he?
“We met a guy – they said he was Batman, but he wasn’t really,” Brown said, proving she isn’t so easily fooled.
But overall, she had fun. “I saw snakes, and owls, and I saw cute porcupines,” she said. More discovery was on hand, too. “We went to this butterfly place, and I learned that they catch butterflies and put tags on them. Sometimes they fly to Mexico, and some people look for them and see the tag.”
Brown, who went to last year’s camp, said she found this year’s one to be more fun by far.
“It’s really cool to see the kids’ reactions to certain things,” Nesheiwat said. “I love when they get excited about certain things and something interesting they’ve never heard of before. The camp is to teach the kids to love nature and not hate nature.”
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org