Juliet Grable

– Published August 21 2012

Your Child Can Love Nature Too!

Summer is almost over, but there’s still time to take advantage of classes and camps for kids through Ashland’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Michele Pavilionis designed her upcoming Urban Naturalist Day Camp as a “nature immersion experience” especially for younger kids. The camp, which runs August 27 through the 30th at North Mountain Park, will include a balance of hands-on activities, games, story-telling and crafts, along with quiet observation and journaling.

“There will be opportunities for older kids to mentor younger kids,” says Pavilionis. She believes that empowering children by allowing them to teach one another is one of the most important things we can do. Her camp is open to ages 4 to 12.

Pavilionis grew up in Ashland and earned a degree in early childhood development from SOU. She’s been working with children in the outdoors for as long as she can remember. She started teaching for the Coyote Trails School of Nature four years ago, where she helped start the Little Foxes Program for kids six and under.

Coyote Trails has created several “trails of study” for both children and adults, and offers classes at the Jefferson Nature Center in Medford and at EarthTeach Forest Park, 1600 wooded acres northeast of Ashland. Courses focus on “primitive skills” such as tracking, making fire by friction, and shelter building.

Pavilionis calls her camp “Coyote Trails-influenced”; in fact, one of the more involved activities will be the construction of shelters or debris huts. They may build one shelter as a group, which would give kids the chance to take on different aspects of the construction and mentor others. But in addition to outdoor survival skills, the camp will include nature studies, where students learn about local plants, animals, birds and ecology.

“Getting to know the environment is the first step to caring about it,” says Pavilionis, who helped develop a naturalist curriculum for nine to twelve-year-olds attending Willow Wind in Ashland. She hopes kids will leave her camp knowing they can observe and appreciate the natural world just about anywhere.

“It’s not just something you go out in the woods and do.”

The Urban Naturalist Day Camp takes place August 27-30 (Monday through Thursday) from 9:00am to noon. Cost is $100. To register your child in the camp, call (541) 488-6606 or register online:

Check out Coyote Trails School of Nature at