The Nisqually Reach Nature Center has hosted popular summer day camps at Luhr Beach at the Nisqually Delta since 2000. 

These camps are led by the education director and many volunteer counselors. The camps are designed to connect students ages 7-15 with nature through a hands-on, inquiry-based science program. Each three-day camp enrolls approximately 15-20 students each, followed by a five-day advanced science camp (Citizen Science Academy) for older students in August. Many campers return year after year to build on and refresh what they experienced the previous summer.

This year’s Citizen Science Academy (ages 12-15) features a three day, two night camping trip to Mount Rainier National Park. Campers are able to explore the unique ecosystems that comprise the Nisqually Watershed. A kayaking adventure on the Nisqually Delta is also included and will feature marine mammal surveys.

Summer camp emphasizes basic science concepts, but activities are engaging to all students and include educational games and free time on the beach. Workbooks given to each student contain beach etiquette guidelines, worksheets for recording data, identification pages for bivalves, word games, and puzzles.

In addition to the core curriculum, new elements are introduced each year, including guest speakers and innovative activities. Sessions have been presented on the geology of sand/mud, nature journaling, bird myths and facts, salmon life cycle and habitat, prey/predator relationships, oyster and squid dissection, deep-sea diving in Puget Sound, fly fishing, nature mapping, and much more.

For information go to www.nisquallyestuary.org.

The inquiry-based science curriculum at summer camp includes the following programs:

Introduction to the Nisqually Estuary

In this introductory program, students learn the fundamentals about estuaries and their importance, focusing on the unique qualities of the Nisqually Estuary.

Beach Seining Surveys: What’s in the Water?

Students experience hands-on net seining in this program. This program allows students to participate in each step in the process, from carrying the seine net to the beach, setting the net and bringing it to shore, collecting fish and other animals from the net, and measuring and recording saline levels and water temperature. Back inside the Center, each group identifies and measures the fish, gunnels, shrimp, and other creatures, and they record their data on worksheets.

Shore Crab Surveys: What’s Under the Rocks?

This program is particularly fun and interesting for younger students who enjoy collecting the tiny shore crabs that inhabit the mud and rocky beach. Each small group is provided with a 15-inch square quadrate, a trowel, and a collection cup. On the beach, students place their quadrates and remove rocks and mud in their squares to find shore crabs, which are collected and examined inside the Center.

Benthic Invertebrate Surveys: What’s in the Mud?

In this program students learn about the variety of clams, mussels, ghost shrimp, ribbon worms, moon snails, and other invertebrates that live in the tidal zones. As with the shore crab survey, after the introductory discussion students go to the beach in groups with quadrates, trowels, and collection cups. Each group selects a different tidal zone, places a quadrate, and digs a hole in the mud, placing any animals found in the collection cup. Inside, each group identifies the bivalves and other animals and measures them, recording their data on worksheets.

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