As we’ve reimagined Portland Audubon’s camps in the aftermath of the pandemic, we’ve given a lot of thought to this sense of joyful community. How can we build a summer for both children and staff that is safe, supportive, welcoming, world-expanding, and sustainable, in every sense of the word? How can we connect campers to the full breadth of what makes Portland Audubon so special? As we renew our commitment to a sliding scale model, how can we design camps with every camper in mind and create a culture in which every camper feels a part of that story.
To celebrate this collective story-making, we’re giving our camp a name for the first time. This year, campers will be welcomed to Portland Audubon’s SWIFTS Nature Camp. SWIFTS is an acronym that encompasses much of what makes camp here so unique: Science, Wildlife, Imagination, Friendship, and Taking a Stand. We chose swifts as a mascot because they embody so much of what we strive to foster in children. They’re collaborative—they roost together and help each other raise young. They’re at home in the city and in the forest. They do everything on the wing. They’re both hyper-local and roaming explorers. And they’re iconically Portland.
Along with this new name, this summer you’ll see a few changes to camp. We’re imbuing the camp day with more music and performance. We’re looking to add conservation action to every single camp. And we’ve created tracks to help families find the right camp for their kiddos, from the artist-scientist Creature Creators to the adventure-seeking Wilderness Scouts. These tracks continue in three-week cycles throughout the summer, enabling families who choose to attend multiple weeks of camp to build on their sense of community from week to week.
We’ve also made some changes to the camp structure. To help our staff bring their best selves each day, we’ve shortened the day to end at 3 p.m. and set an early 2 p.m. release time on Fridays. At the same time, to support working parents, we’re offering aftercare for the first time, enabling campers to stay until 5:30 p.m.
To help steward these changes, we’ve welcomed a new Senior Educator, Camp Specialist to our team. Andrés Umaña is native to the highlands of Colombia, a temperate, rainy, and mountainous zone in the Andes that resembles the Pacific Northwest in weather and vegetation. He brings with him nearly two decades of experience in environmental science, sustainable travel, and youth education in both the U.S. and Colombia, and hopes to instill a sense of belonging, compassion, and urgent care for our natural world in younger generations under an equity lens.
In this work, Andrés is building upon the incredible foundation built by former education staff including James Davis, Jennifer Devlin, Steve Robertson, Ian Abraham, and Tim Donner, and even more full-time educators, seasonal educators, and support staff. So much of camp will remain the same, and their energy, dedication and spirit will continue to fly through these programs as we welcome our first roost of SWIFT campers this June. We’re also indebted to the Spencer Higgins Education Fund for creating the support to make our camps inclusive and accessible to all. If you’d like to donate to the Spencer Higgins Education Fund to support our sliding scale model, click here.