CAMP DETAILS FOR NATURE QUEST CAMP
Greetings and Welcome!
Thank you for registering your child for our 2020 Nature Quest Camp at McKinney Falls. This page provides important information about preparing your child for camp; we know it’s long, but please read it thoroughly!
McKinney Falls State Park at 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin 78744 (Not to be confused with McKinney Roughs Nature Park!)
Drop-off and Pick-up Instructions - PLEASE READ CAREFULLY.
When you arrive at the gate to the state park on the first day of camp on Monday morning, you will be greeted by a staff member and issued a paper pass that will allow you to enter and exit the park for camp pick-up and drop-off for the entire week. Please do not discard this pass as you will need it for entry and exit all week. If different vehicles/individuals will be doing the pick-up and drop-off please let the staff member know at the gate so they can issue you a second pass at that time. Please be patient when entering the park. Summer is a busy time for our state parks and there are a lot of vehicles entering the park at the same time in the morning. If you arrive late and see a sign in the gatehouse window that says please park and come in for a pass you must park and go into the gatehouse. The park rangers will have additional passes at the gate for those who either arrive late or didn’t get a pass on the first day for some reason.
Once you have your pass you can just show it to the Ranger at entry. If there is no Ranger at the gate but instead a sign on the sliding glass door asking you to park and come inside all you need to do is STOP at the stop sign and then proceed. You do not need to park and go inside if you already have a pass. PLEASE respect the stop sign at the main gate each time you enter the gate as well as all posted park speed limits and traffic signs.
After entering the park, make your first right. You will almost immediately see parking spots on your left and bathrooms. Please park here. This is where sign-in and sign-out will be. If all spots are full, there are additional parking spots a little further down the road, as well. Do not park on the grass!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Earth Native’s contract with the State Park includes park entry for Pick-Up and Drop-Off ONLY. If your family visits the park outside of an official program day, or if a parent/sibling decide to stay in the park before or after pick-up, you will need to pay regular park entry fees and get a regular park pass for your vehicle's windshield. Adult fees are $6/per person and children under 13 years old are FREE. Your Earth Native pick-up and drop-off pass is valid ONLY for that purpose and does not allow you to park and leave your vehicle to hike or camp or any other activity. If you park and leave your vehicle without a regular park pass you will likely get ticketed by the park police and risk the possibility that your vehicle may be towed.
Please call our main number at 512-299-8870 if you have any questions about the sign-in location or have trouble finding it. You can also refer to this Google maps link: http://goo.gl/maps/MIDv5
Drop-off: Please arrive between 8:45am and 9:00am on Monday only for registration and sign-in. (Unless you have signed up for extended hours.) The rest of the week (Tuesday-Friday), please plan to drop-off and sign-in between 9:00am and 9:05am.
Note: You may want to come a little early on the first day as you may have to wait in line for your park pass.
Pick-up: Monday through Friday, please arrive to pick-up and sign-out between 2:55pm and 3:00pm. All children not signed up for extended hours must be signed-out by 3:00pm.
Extended Hours: 8:00am – 4:00pm each day (Please sign-up and pay for this service in advance.) See below for details.
No Early Arrival/Late Pickup:
Although our staff is on-site both before and after sign-in and sign-out, they are NOT available to supervise children outside of the arrival and pick-up times indicated above. This time is used for program planning and debrief, and it is critical to us being able to provide each individual camper and the group with the best week possible. We know that this is challenging for working parents and appreciate your understanding.
Late Pick-up Fees:
Additional fees will be charged to parents who are more than 15 minutes late to pick-up at a rate of $1 per minute. Parents who are 10-15 minutes late will be given one verbal warning before being charged. Parents that are more than 15 minutes late will be charged without a warning.
Optional Extended Hours:
Extended camp hours are available 1 hour before and 1 hour after camp for an additional $20 per camp day. Drop-off will begin at 8am and pick-up is available until 4pm. If you did not choose and pay for this at registration, please email us to have this added.
During registration we asked for you to list all adults, including parents, who are authorized to pick up your child from camp. If there are any additions/changes to this, please let your camp instructor know on the first day of camp.
Sign-In and Sign-Out:
It is our policy that each camper be signed-in every morning and signed-out every afternoon! Please make sure that everyone who is authorized to drop-off or pick-up your child during the week is aware of the need to do this. We will check identification at pick-up until we know you, and this must match the names of individuals authorized to take home your child.
We also ask that if there is someone that your child knows well (parent, uncle, grandparent etc.) who is NOT authorized to pick them up due to custody issue or restraining order or similar situation that you let us know so we are aware of the situation.
What Your Child Should Wear:
Comfortable clothes that can get very dirty/wet and are appropriate for the weather
Sturdy, closed-toe shoes that can get wet and very dirty
Raingear or poncho if significant rain is in the forecast
What to Pack:
Please send the following items with your child in a small/medium backpack that can fit ALL of their personal items including their lunch and water bottle. (Please do not send your child to camp with a bag on wheels or a satchel they have to carry over one shoulder or send your child with a pack that is too small to fit all of their items in.)
FULL 27 oz. (or larger) water bottle or camelback style water system is REQUIRED (In the heat it is critical that your child drink enough water. If your child does not bring a water bottle they will not be able to attend camp until they have one.) If you ordered an Earth Native water bottle during registration it will be given to you at sign-in on the first day of camp and there will be a filling station near-by.
Personal supply of sunscreen – Please apply your child’s sunscreen before you drop them off. While our instructors will do their best to monitor and remind campers about re-application, it is very helpful if campers of a reasonable age are able to monitor and help themselves.
Bug spray!! – We highly recommend that you put bug spray on your children before camp. The chiggers are VERY present at McKinney Falls during the warmer months. Don’t forget to put bug spray around their ankles/socks and around their waist under their shirt to help prevent chigger bites as well as on top of their clothing. Natural bug sprays do not seem to work well on chiggers. Having your child take a shower after camp is also a very good idea. Here is a link to a helpful article about chiggers
What NOT to Pack:
Excessive sugary snacks or “energy drinks”
Excess extra clothes
Extra items of any sort. We will be covering a fair bit of ground on foot each day, and heavy backpacks become a challenge for all. Bring what you need and nothing else.
We take safety very seriously at Earth Native and summer heat is definitely the number one hazard we face here in Texas. In order to prevent heat related illness, we will require your children to drink water throughout the day. If your child does not like to drink water, please consider adding about 1⁄4 or 1⁄2 juice to the water to give it some flavor. Alternately EmergenC or similar drink packets can help the kids to drink more and replenish their electrolytes. Also, please consider packing your child some salty snacks to encourage drinking and to help replenish the salt they are losing through perspiration.
Though we have lots of tricks up our sleeves to get reluctant children to drink a safe amount of water, on occasion we have a child who is unwilling. If your child is unwilling to drink a safe amount of water throughout the day we will call you to help, or perhaps, to pick them up if the unwillingness persists.
Our camps run rain or shine, however we will delay or cancel a day of camp in cases of dangerous/severe weather (such as tornado warnings, flash flood warnings, etc.) If camp is canceled for a day you will be notified via email and it will be clearly marked on the webpage for your camp. If you have questions about cancelations please first check our website, if you don’t get the answers you are seeking then please call/text the Camp Director or main school number at 512-299-8870.
What to Expect:
Please arrive at the sign-in location between 8:45am and 9:00am to sign your child in. An instructor or our Camp Director will greet you at the sign-in table. Please keep your child with you until after he or she is signed-in! At that point your child will get a name tag, and then will be invited to join the rest of the group in a game or explore our hands-on “nature museum”. This is a good time to check-in with the Camp Director or an instructor if you have any questions or concerns.
Each morning there will be a large group game that campers can join as they arrive, and a nature-table set up for those who prefer a quieter or more stationary activity to start off their day. This is followed by one of the staff sharing a nature story that introduces a general theme or focus for the day. After the story, campers join their small groups called “clans” for the majority of the day
At Earth Native School we encourage campers to really connect with the natural world! Often that means getting right in...be it mud, charcoal or berry-juice face paint. Don’t be surprised to see children and adults with dirty faces at the end of the day. Please send your child to camp in clothes and shoes that can get dirty and wet. Bringing a change of clothes and/or keeping some large trash bags in the car during camp week for kids to sit on at the end of the day is a great way to minimize the impact of dirty campers! We also recommend a bath/shower for your child each day after camp.
Lastly, please take a moment to read our Student Code of Conduct - click here
If you have any questions, please contact us at (512) 299-8870 or via e-mail at
We look forward to seeing you this summer!
What did Your Child Learn at Summer Camp Today?
Is it “enough” for your child to come home from camp with a sparkle in their eye and dirt on their knee? We think so, but some parents might wonder, “‘Where is the curriculum?’ Is my child actually learning anything at this nature camp?” And well you might wonder, for it is only what we teach that is right in front of us – how we teach it is what we like to call “invisible”. (It’s not really invisible, you just have to know what to look for!)
Our curriculum is taught in a variety of ways – through storytelling, games, hands-on doing, challenges, and the art of questioning. Furthermore, only a portion of our camp curriculum is set in stone – it is more important to us to notice who your child is and what in the natural world captures their excitement and curiosity! Nature provides many more opportunities for learning and discovery each week than we could ever follow. So, within very broad guidelines and intentions, we allow nature and the children to be our guide.
If your child says “We had fun! We sneaked and hid and ambushed and wandered around and got lost,” please understand that this is our pedagogical method at Earth Native School. Based on how hunters and gatherers taught their children, camp is designed to be an “invisible school” that flows with the energy cycles of your children and the opportunities that nature presents. We are confident you will find that, in one short week, we’ve begun to reach our goal for your child: to awaken awareness, to provide tools for inquiry; and to create learning routines for life-long naturalist studies.
So, if you ask your child what they “learned” at camp, you might get a vague answer, or none at all. Instead, we invite you to ask them questions that will allow them to show you what they know... here are some suggestions:
- Are there any wild plants that you like to eat? Can you show me? (Instructor Tip: Be sure to ask them if they know of any similar looking plants that cannot be eaten! Ask them how to tell the difference, and if YOU don’t know, look them up in a field guide! We emphasize and role model this important safety technique when eating wild edible plants and encourage you to do the same!)
- I’ve heard you can build a shelter out of branches and leaves; can you tell/show me how?
(Instructor Tip: To build a human-size shelter can be a several hour project in a location where all the natural materials are close at hand. You can build a doll-size shelter much more quickly, and then test its effectiveness with a “rain storm” from a water bottle.)
- Is there a way to move silently to get close to animals? (Instructor Tip: Ask your child if they learned any sneaking games that they’d like to show you.)
- Is this an animal track? How many toes does it have? Which way do you think the animal was going? Does it have claws? What kind of animal might have made it? (Instructor Tip: Asking lots of questions before deciding “who” it is can lead to more learning! Animal track field guides are lots of fun.)