Adaptation is a word that is used often in Durango Nature Studies’ curriculum.
Adaptations are traits that help a species or an animal survive. On a day-to-day scale for humans, adaptations are also small changes in the way we view the world – changing our perspective in a situation to make the best of it. Like the animals we study, humans are constantly adapting to their environment.
Durango Nature Studies’ summer camp is in full swing, and our first session of campers had to adapt to weather conditions that were unexpected. Usually, the heat at the Durango Nature Center becomes so intense that campers can’t wait to wade in the river, stream tromp or sit in the cool sand that makes up our beaches.
In fact, we have learned that no matter what changes we make to improve the campers’ experience, they look forward to many of the same things year after year, and we are forced to meet those expectations. This year, adapting was forced upon them.
During the second week of June, the Durango area received a significant amount of rain. Not only were the rivers overflowing, but Lemon Reservoir was forced to release water. The rivers weren’t just swelling on their own, they were getting releases from Lemon, as well.
Therefore, the Florida River, which runs through the nature center, was a different entity. Gone were the peaceful beaches, wadeable sections and calm eddies. In their place was a force to be reckoned with. Needless to say, getting in the river was not an option.
At first, the kids were devastated that water activities were not on the menu. However, this gave way to surprising new activities that never would have been possible under normal conditions. As the rain fell, campers created amazing rain dances. As the mud accumulated, kids created mud sculptures. Staff members were able to teach about erosion as it was actually happening and show kids how a meadow could become a wetland.
During one storm, a group gathered in the pavilion and bonded everyone together with howls and songs and laughter. We even unrolled the pavilion walls for the first time in remembered history, which created a whole new world to explore as nests, bugs and other homes were discovered. It was one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had at camp.
Even though all of the campers in the first session had to adapt to a new and unexpected environment (and their parents had to adapt to more loads of laundry), it is my hope that those kids will look back at that week as one of the best times they’ve had. Those times we are forced out of our comfort zone and experience a bit of adventure often end up being the most special.
At the end of the week, we still weren’t able to actually get in the water. But, we created an activity on our footbridge called “dip a toe” to take a stab at satisfying campers’ yearning for the river. For this group of kids, it may have been just enough of a met expectation after a week of adapting.
Sally Shuffield is executive director of Durango Nature Studies. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-9244.