Just last week there was another article about the stress of war taking a toll on military children. Along with the usual lifestyle challenges, military children are also coping with parents being deployed at an increased rate to support two wars. At Virginia State Parks we believe our parks are a tonic for the mind, body and spirit. This is one of the reasons we were very happy to partner with the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network to create an exciting adventure camp for children whose parents are stationed at Fort Belvoir.
Captain John Smith Explorers Camp provided an opportunity for military children to get outside and connect with northern Virginia history, northern Virginia outdoors and have some fun. Fort Belvoir children got to know Captain John Smith and the local area he first explored more than 400 years ago. Through hands-on activities, hiking, and exploring, children are learning what it must have been like for Captain John Smith and his crew when they first arrived on the shores of Mason Neck in 1608. Captain Smith kept a journal with detailed descriptions of his surroundings. He and his crew spent several weeks in the Mason Neck area searching for gold and dodging Indian arrows.
Children that participated in this project spent one week learning about that experience and making important connections with the past. Through a cooperative agreement between the state and national parks the program was free and camp size was limited to ensure a high quality program. While having fun was one of the main objectives, the program was also intended to create lifelong stewards of the Chesapeake Bay and the area’s cultural and historical heritage.
Teachers Kelly Evans and Paige Hutchinson designed a curriculum to meet program goals while engaging children in actively discovering the natural world around them. Some of the activities included: nature journaling, plant and animal identification, water testing and canoeing. Children were given a Mason Neck hat and a certificate upon graduation.
Camp sessions were July 5th through August 14th. Kelly, Page, Kelsey and Frank -Camp Leaders. The camp staff was outstanding. We were so fortunate to have such dedicated, knowledgeable and caring teachers leading the program. It’s all over now, the children have their memories and they also have an increased understanding of the place they call home while stationed at Fort Belvoir.
Mason Neck State Park is in Fairfax County on High Point Road. The park is located 7 miles northeast of Woodbridge. Take US Route 1, then turn east on State Route 242 (Gunston Road) for about 4 miles. Park Entrance is on the right.