February 2nd, 2023

Young girl-identified campers learning to cut wood.

Peterborough GreenUP’s Climate Leadership Camp for Girls, Two-Spirit and Gender Diverse Youth is a week-long camp at Ecology Park during July and August tailored to ages 11 to 13. The camp offers gender-diverse youth the chance to build the skills and confidence needed to become climate leaders, with a focus on green building, food security, cycling skills, climate adaptation, and water protection. (Photo: Genevieve Ramage)

By: Karen O’Krafka, Program Coordinator, GreenUP

Youth in our region have proven that they can have a real and sustained impact on the environment and climate.

Youth are conscious consumers, discerning digesters of media, and they can get down and dirty to retrofit their school yards for climate resilience, all while tackling responsibilities at school and at home.

How can we further support and encourage these inspiring climate leaders? As many families are currently planning for summer camp, GreenUP is excited to shout “There are camps that can do that!”

Gearing up for a fourth season, GreenUP’s Climate Leadership camp for Girls, Two-Spirit and Gender Diverse Youth is one of many camps in this region that offers children and youth opportunities to flex their leadership muscles.

While writing this column on the International Day of Education (January 24th), we were inspired to take a deeper look at the diverse patchwork of nature inspired camps offered here in Peterborough & the Kawarthas. These camps play an important role in the community by developing biophilia (nature connectedness) in our youngest generation.

To help reiterate this point, Jacob Rodenburg, Executive Director of Camp Kawartha, and leader of the Pathway to Stewardship and Kinship asks, “What are the key seminal experiences that will help motivate? A lot of it is not rocket science, right? Little kids need a chance just to love the earth, to activate their senses.”

Young girl smelling Anise flowers at Ecology Park in the summer.

Not only does the climate crisis magnify inequalities people may face, but it also exacerbates the emotional anxiety that is disproportionately experienced by youth. Camps are a powerful tool in addressing this anxiety by engaging in thoughtful dialogue and supporting youth agency in creating change. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP)

The tremendous local contingent of nature-based camps certainly offer this for campers. Our region is home to Trent TRACKS camps, Jumping Mouse Outdoor School, Gritty Classroom, Camp Kawartha, and Rowantree Children School, just to name a few.

Summer camps provide children and youth with opportunity to connect to nature. They can also benefit the youth by strengthening their resiliency during times of duress.

Anne Corkery, renowned environmental educator and founder of the Gritty Classroom Camps explains, “We often underestimate the positive impacts that time in nature can have on our mental wellbeing, and resilience.”

“At a time when resilience is lacking in our younger population and our climate is in crisis, we need now, more than ever, to cultivate a connection between our children and the natural world.”

As our campers grow, so do their interests and what engages them. Tweens and teens benefit most from authentic opportunities for hands-on experience combined with real work. Rodenburg notes that “as [young people] get older, they need to engage in direct action.”

Enter Climate Leadership camps.

GreenUP’s Climate Leadership camp for Girls, Two-Spirit and Gender Diverse Youth is again set to wheel our way through the community with week-long camps tailored to ages 11-13.

Climate Leadership camp seeks to offer an action-oriented week with themes that touch on some of the most significant community connections to the climate crisis. These camps aim to amplify the voices and actions of diverse girls, Two-Spirit and gender diverse youth – voices that are critical to discussions of climate justice.

A group of youth's bare feet gathered in a circle in shallow water.

Climate leadership camps at GreenUP provide outlets for youth to discuss, act upon, and relate back to issues in climate change through meaningful action. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP)

The impacts of climate change are felt disproportionately across many intersections of lived experience, and continue to magnify the inequalities in our society.

Tegan Moss, GreenUP’s Executive Director, offers that “One solution is to increase access to educational programming that responds to inequalities. At GreenUP, this is exactly what we’ve been doing with the Climate Leadership program.”

Camp can create inspiring environments that hone skills, engage in respectful dialogue and have fun, too – all in the name of climate leadership.

During the Climate Leadership program GreenUP education staff introduce this group of campers to trusted mentors who generously share own their professional expertise and passion around climate action. This summer this cohort will have the opportunity to learn from B!KE, The Diverse Nature Collective, Elder Dorothy Taylor from Oshkigamong/Curve Lake First Nation, The Endeavour Centre, Nourish, and the Gender Equity team from Kawartha World Issues Centre.

With the support of an incredible community of climate action heroes and opportunities like nature-based camps, young people have the chance to build the skills and confidence they need to be climate leaders, now and into the future.

Two young bike riders riding in-front of camera perpective.

Peterborough GreenUP’s Climate Leadership Camp for Girls, Two-Spirit and Gender Diverse Youth includes a cycling skills component in partnership with B!ke – The Community Bike Shop. B!ke’s community outreach manager Ness Pringle says they “really enjoyed getting to work with the kids because it allowed me to be a part of the process of helping them settle in and open up socially. Many of them by the end of the day, I noticed, had already become more knowledgeable about the mechanics of their bikes.” (Photo: Genevieve Ramage)

Keep an eye out for Ecology Park Camp Registration opening on February 1st at 9am at www.greenup.on.ca or contact camps@greenup.on.ca for more details.

Thanks to the support of the Community Foundation, we are able to both enhance our programming and to offer four fully funded equity priority spaces for Climate Leadership Campers this year. The Community Foundation of Peterborough’s Gender Equality Grants are made possible thanks to a collaboration between Community Foundations of Canada and the Equality Fund, with support from the Government of Canada.