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
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
This year Lazovsky also invited a guest team from
Here the team from town of
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
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.)