April 8, 2013


Posted by Christopher Colahan, Managing Director at Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County

A blog update is long overdue! There's been so much going on this winter it's hard to know where to begin. I promise I'll start updating the blog again, each week focusing on a different topic. This week, I'll focus on the new Tripping Department!

2012 Sea Kayak Trippers Taking a Snorkel Exploration Break

This past fall (2012) we thought a lot about our goals for our campers. We've always wanted them to grow socially and emotionally, and develop skills and knowledge. There's a large body of research that examines the multiple benefits the outdoors offers for human development in all 4 of those areas (social, emotional, cognitive, and physical). So, we performed a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) on P Dunes for outdoor exploration:

Strengths: Peconic Dunes possesses many ecosystems and is close to others, including marine, freshwater rivers and lakes, dunes and forests. Plus we had just purchased new canoes and sea kayaks and they were being used to explore Great Pond and LI Sound down to Goldsmith's Inlet. We also own a 12-passenger van and a canoe trailer.
Weaknesses: We felt that we were not intentionally developing camper skills so they could continue to explore LI's ecosystems when they return to their homes.
Opportunities: Over the past few years we've developed an awesome relationship with Elizabeth O'Connor, an American Canoe Association (the original ACA) master instructor. She told us about the ACA's developmentally progressive, age-appropriate curriculum for canoeing and kayaking. Plus, P Dunes has two American Red Cross waterfront lifeguard instructors who only needed a short course to upgrade their certifications to become Wilderness First Aid instructors...enabling them to train the rest of our staff.
Threats: As with any activity that takes you away from civilization, there is an element of danger that would need to be explored and safely managed.

It was clear that with some minor changes, we could develop an amazing outdoor tripping program. So we identified four methods of outdoor exploration on which we would focus: canoeing, kayaking, trekking, and fishing. And thus our new Tripping Department was formed!

2012 Qualifiers for Goldsmith's Inlet Sea Kayak Trip

Tripping Director, Miesje Reiner
This summer we'll be offering progressive, age-appropriate instruction in all four areas. As campers demonstrate proficiency and interest, we'll make day and overnight trips available so they can continue to develop their skills in less controlled environments (i.e. off-campus). This is all being implemented by new Tripping Program Director, Miesje Reiner, who joined Peconic Dunes in 2012 as a fishing instructor. Miesje's a Long Island native and local school teacher who spends most of her free time exploring the island's waterways and walking trails. Our canoe and kayak staff will continue be trained in lifeguarding and canoe/kayak, and all of our Tripping staff will be trained in Wilderness First Aid (some already are trained Wilderness First Responders).

We are entering the next phase of Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp. Our goal for the Tripping Department is for it to grow beyond the overnight camp, into its own program. Another goal is to combine departmental strengths, and create scientific outdoor exploration opportunities, like studying the horseshoe crab migrations on an overnight sea kayaking trip. If you have any ideas, please share them on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peconic-Dunes-Camp/62652174713

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