Camp Kaniksu: teaching our youth about the joys of nature

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

For kids growing up in North Idaho, you’d think everyone would have the same opportunities to experience the joy of nature. The truth is, not everyone gets to experience the great outdoors. Kaniksu Land Trust (KLT) and Sandpoint Parks and Recreation are hoping to change that.

Camp Kaniksu is a four-week camp for area kids ages 7 to 12 years old offered by Kaniksu Land Trust, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to promote healthy lands and communities with the understanding that the two are inextricably linked. KLT is working in tandem with Sandpoint Parks and Recreation to promote this fun summertime event.CampKaniksu-WEB

“We work with our school system and area pediatricians to identify opportunities where we can get children of all ages out onto the land,” said KLT outreach and communications director Suzanne Tugman.

Tugman said Camp Kaniksu is a great opportunity for area youth to learn more about the outdoors from training professionals who teach in a fun, hands-on manner.

The camp is divided into two separate sessions and age groups.

Session 1 goes from June 26 to July 21. Ages 7-10 meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and ages 11-12 meet Tuesdays and Thursdays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Session 2 takes place July 31 through August 25. Ages 7-10 meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and ages 11-12 attend Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Camp Kaniksu is open to anyone aged 7 to 12 who wants to learn more about nature. It will take place on the University of Idaho extension campus on North Boyer and the camp director Dave Kretzchmar holds a master’s degree and has put together a great itinerary.

Kretzchmar’s teaching style derives from the teachings of Jon Young, who emphasizes the interconnection and universal characteristics that people share around the world. Utilizing the four cardinal directions and the points between, Kretzchmar will divide each session into eight classes per age group.

In these outings, kids will learn about common sense in nature, how to track animals and identify plants and how to recognize ecological indicators. They’ll learn about heritage species that are unique to our area, trees, birds and take place in useful activities such as catching species, climbing, eating, tending and generally how to commune with nature in a positive way.

“The main thing is getting people out into the natural world and just letting them be free again,” said Kretzchmar. “While supervising them, we give them time to wander and play and engage in nature.”

Games are used as a universal educational tool, said Kretzhmar: “Games are so necessary to help inspire and activate them with nature. We have lots of fun activities like weaving together cattails, hats, baskets, mats, that kind of thing, along with primitive skills like building natural shelters.”

Kretzchmar said it’s important to instill the idea that we shouldn’t be afraid of nature.

“It’s a place that they’re welcome,” he said. “This camp is a way to connect them on many levels. We as humans now are almost like aliens on our own planet, we’ve become so separated from nature. This is an attempt to reverse that trend and connect people with nature once again. That’s the key; exposure. If we do it right they’ll be able to love and care for the natural world and become caretakers in the future.”

Camp Kaniksu owes thanks in part to Leadership Sandpoint, whose Cinco de Mayo fundraiser raised over $8,000 to help the camp operate. Albertson’s also provided a grant to help the camp fund the program.

For parents interested in having their child attend, Sandpoint Parks and Recreation is taking registrations, but space is limited. The entire camp will cost $80, which breaks down to about $20 per week. Campers aren’t required to bring anything, but will have all necessary materials supplied by KLT. To register, contact Sandpoint Parks and Recreation at, or by phone at (208) 263-9471.

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