In a generation where teenagers are more impressed with what is on their computer screen than the world around them, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center Manager Jason Beale is helping several thirteen to fifteen year olds to discover the lost art of living off the land. This week’s summer camp at the nature preserve near Milford will teach these teenagers the skills they need to survive in nature with no modern-day amenities.
Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, with its preserved, working mill, is owned by Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and operated by the Delaware Nature Society. Located along Abbott’s Pond just southwest of Milford, the Nature Center manages 313 acres. This diverse nature preserve supports a variety of forested, field and wetland habitats and includes hiking trails, boardwalks and teaching stations that provide educational opportunities for all ages.
Led by Jason Beale, campers begin the week with traditional camp activities including canoeing and exploring trails but by Friday they become survivalists that can start a fire without matches and make rope from wild plants. During their overnight stay on Wednesday, campers were taught how to fish and harvest berries that they later cooked over the fire in preparation for their dinner.
“For me this is the real world, understanding everything originates from base materials on the planet, and through ingenuity you can provide for yourself,” commented Beale. “These skills teach the kids a lot and help produce self confidence.”
The group practices their archery skills each day as they thread bows they created from nature materials found at Abbott’s Mill. This skill teaches them not only how nature is used by man to create tools but also a primitive skills that Beale believes helped kick start civilization.
“At the beginning of the week the kids can hardly place the arrow in their own bows,” commented Beale. “By the end of the week they will be able to walk the trail and hit the targets.”
Many of the Abbott’s Mill summer program campers return every year to experience the great outdoors. Camp counselor Hannah Uebele started the program when she was four and has returned every year until she was asked by Nature Center staff to be a leader for the younger children.
“I enjoyed the classic camp activities as a kid but really liked the primitive skills week, it is a great way to make a lot of friends in the great outdoors,” commented Hannah. “All of our campers are great kids this year. Since it is the video game era and most of them do not have these skills it is great to see them progress throughout the week.”
Abbott’s Mill Nature Center will continue to host events throughout the year, educating adults and children on the beauty of nature in the Greater Milford Area. To find out more about seasonal events individuals can visit the center at 15411 Abbott’s Pond Road just outside of Milford, online at http://delawarenaturesociety.org/ or by phone at 302-422-0847.