Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Kids Camp at Petrov Island

From August 6-8 about 50 kids came to the ranger station at Petrov Island for a 3-day overnight camp. (And I thought the zapovednik was busy before...) The kids stay in the 5 cabins at the ranger station and in tents, so there are no other overnight visitors while the kids are there. However, at the same time that the camp is going on Sveta and Nadya still give tours of Petrov Island and Peschanaya Bay for outsiders visitors who come for the day or who are staying in Olenevod, and the zapovednik doesn't increase its staff numbers at the Petrov Island ranger station during the camp. This means that with 50 kids in town, there are plenty of opportunities to help out!

The kids are all winners in a year-long environmental contest held in the Lazovsky District, and the camp is free for them. (For the year-long environmental contest (called "От дня Земли до века Земли") Lazovsky Zapovednik sponsors all kinds of events throughout the year in local schools, e.g. scientific research contests and more.) The kids are from 5 different towns in the Lazovsky District. (But the kids all know each other, even the new kids – if from nothing else than from the environmental contests that they gather at that are sponsored by the zapovednik throughout the year. So the kids are all like a big family (that loves nature), which is really nice – the camp is like a big family coming together.)

Each of the 5 towns is a team. At the camp the 5 teams compete with each other in various competitions (skits, arts and crafts, games, etc.), and the winner is named at the end. The kids range in age from 9 to 16, but most are in the 12-14 range. About half of them have already been to the camp before, and half are new. At the beginning of the camp the kids take down the Lazovsky Zapovednik flag and put up the flag of Lazovsky’s education department (pictured above), so they have their own special flag. It was amazing when the kids arrived at the camp – I was on Petrov Island, and from there we could hear their happy shrieks on shore, especially as they got ready to go swimming.

Up until 2 years ago Lazovsky Zapovednik had a 10-day camp that they had held annually for about 10 years running. However, now they have had to shorten it to 3 days due to various bureaucratic demands. In the picture above the kids are getting initiated into the camp on the first evening. Galina Aleksandrovna is dressed up as Leshii, the nature spirit of Petrov Island. The kids get a swat from a birch branch, then jump through a decorated hula hoop (which I was holding, hence you can’t see it in this picture), and then they got an amulet made of yew tree bark from a yew tree branch that had fallen on Petrov Island this year.

This year Lazovsky also invited a guest team from Northern Primorye to participate in the camp. The director of Lazovsky Zapovednik’s education department, Galina Aleksandrovna, met the director of the environmental club “Namba” earlier this year, got interested in the education work they do with kids of all ages, and invited them to bring a team to Lazovsky’s camp. They traveled 14 hours by bus to get to Lazovsky! However, they ended up being the winning team. In the picture above are the “judges” of the competition. This year the zapovednik decided kids would judge themselves. One judge was selected from each team. Here the selected kid judges are sitting at the judges’ table evaluating environmental skits.

Here the team from town of Preobrazheniye is performing one of its skits. The kids know in advance that there will be creative competitions for environmental skits and games, so they prepare their skits before the camp starts. Each team also has an adult supervisor (usually a teacher from their local school).

Each team also made up its own games related to the environment, and everybody played. The team from Benevskoye chose to do sharades, which the kids really got a kick out of - there were some funny animals to represent. I believe the animal here is a chicken. (The speaker in the background, by the way, is from the evening festivities: on both nights the kids got to have a dance party with all kinds of pop music and even DJs (two local music teachers).)

The kids also had a sand castle building contest. Here is one team working away. The sculptures were really impressive!

On the morning of their second day the kids split into 3 groups and went on a tour of Petrov Island with either Sveta, Nadya or Olya. Above Sveta is explaining the rules of behavior for the tour and some background about Petrov Island at the tour’s start. I went with Sveta’s group through the first part of the tour, through the spring at the end of the yew tree grove, and then they went farther on without me. This meant that I had the absolutely incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity to walk through the yew tree grove on my own, without any tourists or anyone else around, in complete quiet and solitude. It was amazing – I could go up to the trees along the trail and touch them all, breathe deeply, take off my shoes, and take as much time as I wanted to really see and feel the place where I was, remember how much it has meant to people for centuries. Lazovsky Zapovednik gave me a great gift by allowing me to come here, and to get to spend time in the yew tree grove on one’s own is quite a dream. This was all the more special as it was my last time on Petrov Island.

One the last day kids had a relay race competition, just like kids do in the States, and they loved it. There were a lot of different races Here the kids are being turtles – they have to balance the tubs on their backs with no hands.

One of the last things the kids do at the camp is ask nature for forgiveness for the sins man has committed against her. Each team is given a theme (e.g., animals, pollution, etc.) and thinks about man’s actions in relation to that theme. Then everyone gathers together. Each team hangs symbols on a tree (шаманье дерево) to represent how man has hurt nature and to ask forgiveness for it, and they also read a short explanation of their symbols (some of the teams even had written short poems). (e.g., “Forgive us for fires that destroy the forest.” “Forgive us for poaching your animals.” And so on.) I actually really liked this activity – the kids approached it very thoughtfully, and you could see the sense of responsibility on many of their faces. Above kids from Preobrazeniye are in the dining hall preparing their thoughts for this activity. (Behind them in the background are posters the kids' teams all created about their environmental activities during the year.) Below Olya's daughter Anya is hanging a picture of a factory on the tree.

Below are the kids at the closing ceremonies of the camp (Galina Aleksandrovna and Olya are giving out prizes.)

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