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The Swaner EcoCenter offers children's summer camps. The newest is a sustainability camp designed for grades four through six. Campers will learn about land and water conservation and solar energy. (Photo by Sally Upton)
The Swaner EcoCenter prides itself on its natural-resource-conservation education programs including children's summer camps that it offers in partnership with Utah State University.

The camps offered include outdoor exploration, fundamental science, junk-drawer and Lego robotics and watershed explorers.

New this year is a sustainability camp that will run from Monday, July 8, through Friday, July 12.

The five-day sessions will run from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and are designed for children who are entering fourth, fifth and sixth grades in the fall, said the EcoCenter's youth education camp director Sally Upton.

"There is a new sustainability specialist at Utah State University's extension program named Roslynn Brain, and she and I talked about how cool it would be to start a sustainability camp for kids in Park City," Upton said. "So I partnered with her to develop the curriculum."

Both Upton and Brain will teach the camps.

"The idea is to foster awareness and behavior change among youth in regards to natural resource conservation," Upton explained. "We will focus on a different resource each day during the camp."

The first day will be about land.

"We'll discuss land conservation, waste, recycling and composting and things like that," Upton said. "We'll also go geocaching on the Swaner Preserve to show the campers how land is important for animals as well as humans."

During the day, the children will build their own worm compost bins to take home to compost their food scraps, she said.

"The next day we'll focus on air and air quality and things that pollute our air and how we can address that issue through alternate means," Upton said. "Then we'll also have a day when we talk about food, where we will learn about food miles, which is how far the food travels in order to get to our grocery stores.

"For example, people may buy avocados from South America, but there are ones that are grown closer to us in California or even more locally," she said.

After discussing food, the kids will make boxes so they can plant some lettuce.

Another topic will be water and water conservation.

"That's important because Utah is the second-driest state in the country next to Nevada," Upton said. "So, we'll discuss water quality and take a tour to a wastewater treatment plant."

The last day of the camp will be devoted to energy.

"We will examine the pros and cons of various sources of energy," Upton said. "The kids will have some fun as they design wind turbines and put together solar-activated cars."

The camp will feature representatives from Dwelltek, a local solar-energy solutions company that helps residents and businesses utilize solar power to lower costs.

"They will give some presentations and also help kids melt cheese with a solar oven," Upton said. "We'll also go on some bike rides that day and talk about alternative traveling options."

The overall goal for the sustainability camps is to teach children about our natural resources.

"We want them to understand why these things are important and how we can live in a sustainable way so there are resources for future generations," Upton said. "That's important because when we talk about changing behavior and fostering awareness, we have found that we, as adults, have a more difficult time changing our behaviors.

"But when you introduce these ideas to children, they are more apt to recycle or ride their bikes and continue that when they get older," she said. "So it's important to instill those ideas into them when they are young so they can help conserve our resources when they grow up."

The sustainability camp is designed for 15 children.

"Right now we have nine spaces available," Upton said. "Tuition is $170 and there are scholarships available, so those who want their children to participate but can't because of financial challenges can apply for a scholarship when they register for a class."

Also, campers need to provide their own lunch, though the EcoCenter will provide snacks.

"We aim to make the camps fun, but also educational for the kids," Upton said. "And we hope they'll grow up with those ideas."

For more information about or to register for the Swaner EcoCenter sustainability camp or other summer camps, visit www.swanerecocenter.org.