Finger Lakes Museum's Summer Camp wraps up

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
The Finger Lakes Museum partnered with existing summer recreation programs to bring new experiences to the children of the area. Here, a Wildlife Defenders instructor shows a giant bullfrog to the campers.

The Finger Lakes Museum has just wrapped up a successful 4-week series of summer programs for youth and families, laying the groundwork for future educational activities throughout the area, including at Keuka Lake State Park, the future home of the Museum's Lakeside Campus.

Thanks to a generous $5,000 grant from the French Foundation, the Museum offered enrichment opportunities in experiential education through extended-day, drop-in programs in collaboration with various local organizations and initiatives. Led by Museum Education Director, Mike Sullivan and Museum Educator, Pat Atkinson, this "Museum Camp" was a huge hit with area children from the Jerusalem Recreation Program, the PYE Summer Literacy Program, and the Penn Yan Village Playground Program.

Employees from those existing organizations, in partnership with the Museum, assisted in facilitating each day's events and enjoyed the opportunity to explore new activities while earning additional money.

Each week featured a different theme and a different collection of local specialists. Week 1 – "What a Waterful World" – featured kayaking, paddle boarding and rowing an authentic whale boat owned, built, and captained by Dr. Craig Hohm. Week 2 – "DIY, dude!" – included shelter building, archery, geology, and a solo nature hike. In week 3 – " All About Animals" – the children rode on Kirby, an Icelandic horse owned by Dr. Cordy Sullivan, played with baby chicks raised by Jerusalem Town official Max Parson, and watched a K9 demonstration given by Deputy Betts and his four-legged partner, Hasko. The students also examined terrestrial and aquatic life in the park using specimen jars, microscopes, tubs, and pipettes as part of their "outdoor laboratory." The final week concluded with orienteering challenges using compasses (no GPS!), fun team building activities led by Molly McGuigan's Teamworks group from Keuka College, and a grand finale visit from Wildlife Defenders with their exotic animals from around the globe (who were rained out during "All About Animals" week).

"The Museum cannot host its own full-day summer camp programs yet," Sullivan said, "which was why it made great sense to collaborate with several existing programs already doing a lot of good for the community. I'm proud of the impact we had thanks to the French Foundation and the efforts put forth by a number of local individuals and organizations. I hope that all Museum and local programs will continue to grow and strengthen and support each other."

When Michelle McMinn was observing her grandkids during the program at the State Park, she was approached by a park visitor who remarked, "It's so great to see kids just being kids!" Sullivan and Atkinson were pleased to hear this, as they believe in the importance of open-ended play and healthy risk-taking is missing with today's children. Sullivan stated "I strongly believe that one of the Museum's educational duties is to reintroduce a generation of kids to the skills, courage, and "executive function" that is often gained by simply playing outside."

"This camp series was just the first of many the Museum hopes to lead and take part-in for years to come," Sullivan says. Thanks to the creativity and hard work put forth by Museum staff and local partners, this first experience was a successful, win-win for all.