Kids in Cleveland’s neighborhoods don’t always get much of a chance to experience the beauty and wonders of all nature has to offer in the summer months. Officials in Old Brooklyn want to change that factor and introduce elementary school students to the abundance of nature in their own backyards.
To that end, Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation (OBCDC) has partnered with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) Environmental Education Center to create Crooked River Exploration Camp. The five-day camp will run between Monday, August 6, and Friday, August 10—with James Ford Rhodes High School acting as home base. During camp hours, students in first through fifth grades will venture out to explore Old Brooklyn, CVNP, and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
Activities will include scavenger hunts, paddle boarding, neighborhood hikes, hikes in the CVNP, and games. All activities will center around learning about urban and natural ecosystems.
As the first multi-day camp connection between a Cleveland neighborhood and the CVNP, the partnership is mutually beneficial—establishing roots for CVNP in Cleveland and meeting OBCDC’s mission of conservation and celebration of natural resources. The camp brings together the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), James Ford Rhodes School of Environmental Studies, CVNP, and the zoo to facilitate an inquiry-based curriculum focused on environmental stewardship.
“We’re pretty jazzed to offer this,” says Jeff Verespej, OBCDC’s executive director. “So many kids don’t even know we have a national park in the area.”
Verespej explains that the partnership will introduce the younger Old Brooklyn population to one of the region’s most precious assets. Old Brooklyn students have traditionally been introduced to the CVNP in ninth grade, but officials wanted a program to bring the park to younger students.
“Very few schools from Cleveland and its suburbs take advantage of its proximity for field trips, even though the program is 100 percent reimbursable for second grade students,” Verespej explains. “[Giving] the national park a presence in Cleveland can begin to change that, because many of our families have never been there. This will begin to introduce nature to them and show how the national park and nature in their neighborhood are connected so that they can discover the world both here and beyond.”
Campers will meet each morning at Rhodes High School. The first two days of camp will focus on nature exploration in Old Brooklyn before traveling to CVNP on Wednesday and Thursday. The week is capped off with a trip to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on Friday.
The camp will meet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day of the session at Ford School of Environmental Studies (5100 Biddulph Road). Early care is available starting at 8 a.m. each day. The cost is $135 for the week, and scholarships are available. According to Verespej, camp enrollment is limited to 50-60 students and is open to all Old Brooklyn elementary students. Registration is already underway, but if there are still vacancies after enrollment, officials may open Crooked River Exploration Camp to other Cleveland students.