Viles Arboretum, with support from the Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine, created a new opportunity for area youth by hosting the Young Stewards Summer Camp. The program focuses on affordable nature-based learning experiences. Contributed photo

AUGUSTA — Viles Arboretum, with support from the Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine, in August created a new opportunity for area youth by hosting the Young Stewards Summer Camp. The program focuses on affordable nature-based learning experiences.

Last summer, 19 children spent a week at the Arboretum catching frogs, creating art from natural materials and learning important life skills through games and group activities. Although after nearly two years of canceled plans and virtual learning, perhaps the most valuable experience at camp this year was the chance for kids to be kids again.

“It’s more important than ever to create opportunities for children to engage with nature, which is why we are so excited to have the opportunity to expand this program from one to three weeks in the summer of 2022,” said Lauren Kircheis, programs manager at Viles Arboretum, in a news release.

The arboretum was recently selected as a recipient of the Kennebec Savings Bank Catalyst Grant, which awards the non-profit $30,000 over three years to enhance and expand its summer camp program. These funds will be used to create a learning garden, develop a low-ropes course and install a commercial kitchen to be used for meal preparation and culinary programs.

“We are so excited to continue to enhance our education programs here at Viles Arboretum; leveraging our incredible facility, high-quality staff, and our place-based curriculum to create a robust experience for our region’s young people,” said Ryan Martin, executive director of Viles Arboretum.

The Young Stewards program are scheduled to be hosted the weeks of July 11, 18 and 22 in 2022, and is open to children ages 7-10. Tuition is offered on an income-based sliding scale in hopes of making the program more accessible to all families.

Each week of camp will offer new opportunities for exploration, learning and fun as children participate in programs such as organic gardening, culinary arts and nature crafts.

Registration for the program opens Saturday, Jan. 1.

For more information, visit vilesarboretum.org.