After taking a year off due to health concerns, the Tennessee Aquarium announces redesigned summer camp programs, now in partnership with Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center and presented by Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.
"From sun-drenched team games and dirt-stained clothes to hand-made crafts and friendship pacts, a week at summer camp is a quintessential part of growing up for many kids," officials said. "Thanks to months of being cooped up in the house and only zooming around on a computer, kids need the release of this summertime tradition now more than ever."
“In 2021 we feel confident that we can provide a safe experience for kids, primarily because of our partnership with Reflection Riding,” says Dr.
Brooke Gorman, the Aquarium’s director of science education. “We are designing these camps from the ground up to really take advantage of the best of the Aquarium and the best of Reflection Riding.”
The two organizations will offer camps for children ages five-14 from June 7 to July 30. Online registration for members of either the Aquarium or Reflection Riding will begin Feb. 22, with general registration starting one week later on March 1. Campers will be dropped off and picked up at the Aquarium, but many camp activities will take place on Reflection Riding’s sprawling 317-acre campus at the foot of Lookout Mountain.
"This year’s comprehensive partnership between the Aquarium and Reflection Riding is the natural evolution of a longstanding collaboration," officials said. "Aquarium campers have regularly visited the nature center for various outdoor activities, and the Aquarium’s 'Treefrogs' camp has been a partnership with the Lookout Mountain facility for several years. The two organizations have also partnered in other ways, such as working with Chattanooga Preparatory School and turtle protection programs."
Hosting this year’s camps at the Aquarium and in outdoor spaces will help to maintain safe physical distancing in accordance with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and the Hamilton County Health Department. But there are many deeper benefits to partnering with the arboretum than just the setting, Dr. Gorman says.
“The missions of Reflection Riding and the Aquarium both include connecting people with nature, so we saw a partnership as a chance to combine forces and offer great environmental opportunities,” Dr. Gorman says. “Between our two organizations, Reflection Riding and the Aquarium have almost 100 years of experience connecting people to nature and helping them see their backyards in amazing new ways.
“We have decades of a proud tradition of bringing some of the best camps and learning experiences to the Chattanooga community.”
In a nod to both of its hosts’ areas of expertise, the camps are designed around the theme of “wet and wild.” Passionate environmental educators from both organizations will guide kids to learn about plants and animals that live in wet and wild places and the wet and wild side of their own backyards.
“Reflection Riding is thrilled to be partnering with the Tennessee Aquarium to bring a Wet and Wild summer to Chattanooga,” Corey Hagen, director of education for Reflection Riding, says. “I can’t wait to see the happy faces of children as they make nature memories with us.”
Campers will also benefit from interactions with professional wildlife managers, animal care staff, horticulturists and other specialists. In addition to general camps, some weekly sessions with fewer campers will hone in on a specific topic, such as caring for animals, pollinators and developing skills as a naturalist.
“We can offer truly unique experiences by using this expertise to design camps that let kids investigate and explore plants and animals in natural backdrops as well as within professional care settings,” Dr. Gorman says.
Capacity limits and requirements for masking or vaccinations, if available for children, will be based on public health recommendations and the prevalence of cases in the Chattanooga area. If additional restrictions on indoor gatherings are put in place, the camp will revert to an all-outdoor event on the Reflection Riding campus.
"Thanks to these precautions and the new outdoor setting, parents will be able to rest easy that their kids are safe as they experience the sometimes-messy fun, thrilling discoveries and memorable interactions that only a summer camp can offer," officials said.
Camp fees are $250-$325 for members and $280-$375 for non-members. Camp descriptions, registration and scheduling information is available at tnaqua.org/educate/summer-camp