March 1, 2024

Summer Camp and New Pathfinder Program Help “Grow” the Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow


Summer Camp registration opens March 19, a free youth leadership program is now available, four new “Casitas” playhouses will be installed this year – and other updates to the Backcountry on the way.      

Santa Barbara, Calif. February 29, 2024 – Cultivating the next generation of conservation leaders, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden broadens its youth-oriented programs and initiatives starting with a new and free Backcountry Pathfinders leadership program, funded by the Robinson Foundation. Its 2024 Summer Camp registration also opens March 19. With these programs and other planned education initiatives, the Garden provides more opportunities for children to strengthen their understanding and connection to the natural world.  

“Guiding the next generation of conservationists involves instilling in them a love for protecting and preserving the environment” explains Steve Windhager, Ph.D., the Garden’s executive director. “Through the Backcountry, Summer Camps, and our new Pathfinders programs, we’re providing youth and families with unique guided and self-guided, immersive outdoor experiences to build their confidence in nature.”  

Pathfinder and Summer Camp Programs 

The Garden’s eight-week Summer Camp season begins on June 17 offering nine, week-long, age-appropriate (ages 5 to 10) programs. From the imaginative art enthusiast to the hands-on spirited explorer, Summer Camp at the Garden caters to a wide range of interests and passions. Programs are focused on connecting children with nature and include a “Backcountry Pathfinders” option allowing interested participants to continue the Pathfinders leadership program after summer. 

The Backcountry Pathfinders program, designed for youth ages 8 to 13, offers a unique opportunity for children to develop nature skills, confidence, and leadership. Held twice a month, each 75-minute program provides foundational knowledge on horticulture, biodiversity, and plant-human interactions and includes a hands-on activity. Upon completion, participants receive a badge representing their newly acquired skill and access to a Pathfinder Toolbox in the Backcountry, where they can check out materials such as walkie-talkies, binoculars, and investigation backpacks. Pathfinders will also be eligible to participate in special events and serve as leaders for Garden family activities, such as community planting days, science investigations, and earth art installations. 

“A pathfinder is an explorer, someone who values nature and inspires others through example and leadership” says Michelle Cyr, Garden youth and family programs manager. “Our mission-driven programs aim to strengthen children’s relationships, skills, and understanding of native plants and habitats. It’s an opportunity to immerse themselves in the wonders of the natural world while acquiring essential skills to safeguard it.” 

2024 Garden Pathfinder Schedule  

Sessions take place every other Saturday starting at 11 a.m. Advanced registration is required. For more information visit https://sbbotanicgarden.org/visit/backcountry-pathfinder-program/  

Fun with Fibers | Saturday, March 30, 2024; 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 

Free. Limit of 12 youth aged 8 to 13. Advanced registration is required. Participants utilize plant fibers to weave yucca cordage to take home. They discover why plant fibers are so resilient and why they are valuable in everyday life. https://sbbotanicgarden.org/classes-events/pathfinders-fun-with-fiber/

Nature’s Playground | Saturday, April 13, 2024; 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 

Free. Limit of 12 youth aged 8 to 13. Advance Registration is required. This program is all about play! Pathfinders will experience how nature offers a bounty of resources for creativity and fun as they utilize natural materials from the Garden to develop games of their own design.  https://sbbotanicgarden.org/classes-events/pathfinders-fun-with-fiber/

Insect Investigators | Saturday, April 27, 2024; 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 

Free. Limit of 12 youth aged 8 to 13. Advanced registration is required.  In this program, Pathfinders will embark on a bug-filled adventure as we explore the world of insects. Using investigation methods used by real scientists, we’ll discover how insects and native plants are connected and why they’re vital to healthy ecosystems.  https://sbbotanicgarden.org/classes-events/pathfinders-insect-investigators/

Growing for Pollinators | Saturday, May 11, 2024; 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.  

Free. Limit of 12 youth aged 8 to 13. Advanced registration is required. Give thanks to pollinators as we discover how to make an ideal garden for them. We’ll explore basic skills for building habitats and investigate which flowers pollinators like best. https://sbbotanicgarden.org/classes-events/pathfinders-growing-for-pollinators/

Finding Feathered Friends | Saturday, May 25, 2024; 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.  

Free. Limit of 12 youth aged 8 to 13. Advanced Registration is required. In this program, Pathfinders will spread their wings and soar as we discover how to get in tune with our feathered friends.  From binoculars to bird language basics, Pathfinders will learn new tricks to better observe and understand our woodland birds. https://sbbotanicgarden.org/classes-events/pathfinders-finding-feathered-friends/

Container Gardening 101 | Saturday, June 8, 2024; 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 

Free. Limit of 12 youth aged 8 to 13. Advanced Registration is required. In this program, Pathfinders will bring nature to their doorstep as we dive into how to create a mini garden in a pot.  Discover the joy of nurturing life as we delve into the art of planting, cultivating, and caring for your very own potted plants. https://sbbotanicgarden.org/classes-events/pathfinders-container-gardening-101/

2024 Summer Camp Schedule 

Camp hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with an extended day available from 3 to 5 p.m. Cost is $350 per week, and $100 for the extended day. Registration begins March 19. For more information visit https://sbbotanicgarden.org/visit/youth-programs/summer-camp

Acorn Adventures (Ages 5-6) 

Weeks of June 24, July 15, 29 and Aug. 12. Create nature-based crafts, play, and investigate in our native oak woodlands and creekside habitats.  

Nature Superheroes (Ages 5-6)  

Weeks of June 17, July 8 and Aug. 12. Explore nature’s superpowers through crafts, games, and investigations to discover how remarkable even the tiniest creatures can be.  

Blooming Buddies (Ages 5-6)  

Weeks of June 24, July 22 and Aug. 5. Play cooperative games, participate in mindfulness and gratitude practices, and make hands-on crafts.  

Sense of Nature (Ages 6-8) 

Weeks of June 24, July 22 and Aug. 5. Explore, make crafts, and play games that activate your senses.  

California Tough (Ages 6-8)  

Weeks of July 15 and Aug. 12. Through observations, challenges, and creativity, explore the amazing abilities of California native plants. 

Forest Fitness (Ages 6-8)  

Weeks of June 17 and July 8, 29.  Make new friends and boost your coordination and fitness through active games, physical challenges, team activities.  

Backcountry Pathfinder (Ages 8-10) 

Weeks of June 17 and July 22. Unlock skills to connect people to our planet through art, plant and animal investigations, and exploration practices like journaling. After summer, campers can continue the Garden’s Pathfinder program and qualify to attend special events  

Ecoexplorers (Ages 8-10)  

Weeks of July 8, 29. Uncover the vital skills needed for any scientific expedition and engage in scientific practices and techniques related to natural science.  

Outdoor Creations (Ages 8-10) 

Weeks of July 15 and Aug. 5. Create nature sculptures, make vibrant pastel pieces, engage in storytelling, and more. 

Beyond Summer Camp and its new Pathfinders program, the Garden continues to offer staff-led and self-guided educational tours to local school groups and it has developed free teacher resources including lesson units and activities that are available online. Further exploration opportunities for youth and families include activities such as poetry writing, nature journaling, and sculpture building, and fun new enhancements popping up throughout the Backcountry including new “Casita” playhouses, a zipline, and interactive living structures.  

For more information on the Garden’s youth and family programming, please visit https://sbbotanicgarden.org/visit/youth-programs/    


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