Explore, play, and learn this summer at Rice Creek! Exploring Nature is a summer camp designed to encourage young people's curiosity about their world through habitat exploration, nature walks, learning games, and science and creative activities. 

We invite children and young adults ages 5 to 16 to experience our state-of-the-art science facility, 350-acre natural area, and 5 miles of trails skirting forests, fields, ponds, and streams.

Through guided immersion in a natural environment, participants develop a sense of place, a connection to nature, an understanding of their local environment, and learn how to be good stewards of the Earth.

Exploring Nature is an area tradition first established in 1983. Our dedicated and passionate instructors have been involved with Exploring Nature for many years, and almost all are certified teachers.

Exploring Nature Summer Camp


Week 1: July 8–12, 2024
Week 2: July 15-19, 2024

Daily Schedule
Monday- Friday
Flexible drop-off from 8-9 am
Flexible pick-up from 4-5 pm


Per week

Standard rate: $160

Rice Creek Associates members
receive a $20 discount


Exploring Nature has been waitlisted for 2024

Join 2024 Waitlist

Join Our Team

We are always looking for great team members. Current and former Pre-K–12 educators are invited to apply to be Exploring Nature instructors for the 2024 program. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis starting January 1, 2024. To apply, send a cover letter detailing interest and related experience, along with contact information for two professional references, to Kristen Haynes, the Director of Exploring Nature, at kristen.haynes@oswego.edu. Questions can also be sent to this same email address. Compensation is $1,600.

For additional information, please review this page as well our past job announcement.


  • Scholarships are available based on financial need through generous funding from Rice Creek Associates and private donors.
  • The scholarship application is now seamlessly integrated into the registration form. Scholarships will be available to qualifying families until our funds for a given year are used up.
Frog in hand

EXPLORING NATURE is exactly what its name says it is. Kids of all ages have the opportunity to be “unplugged” from social media and Explore Nature first-hand as they meander through the beautiful trails of Rice Creek guided by trained instructors. Don’t miss this great opportunity for your child to literally get their feet wet in the streams and ponds, fish for crayfish, find the secret frog pond, [and] discover the “bridge over no water”... Your child will come away with great memories, new friends, and a new appreciation for nature.

children and instructor at a picnic table

Exploring Nature far exceeded my expectations! My son loved every minute of it. If your child loves nature and the outdoors, this is a great way to have fun and learn. We will be back next summer!

Children in an outdoor pavilion

Organic fun for kids in a beautiful nature setting. Very interactive and inclusive program that they look forward to attending again next summer.

child holding out something to her instructor

My son loved everything! Could not stop talking about every little detail daily.

boy wading in cattails

Exploring Nature is an excellent camp! We come back year after year!

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the format of Exploring Nature? What's a typical day like?


Exploring Nature runs in two 5-day sessions. Participants can attend one or both weeks. The main program runs from 9 am to 4 pm, with flexible drop-off between 8 and 9 am and flexible pick-up between 4 and 5 pm. On Friday of each week, the formal program ends early (3 pm) so participants can show their family and friends their favorite spots at Rice Creek. Rest assured that flexible pick-up is still available until 5 pm on Fridays for those unable to come to the 3 pm family and friend time.

Campers are typically out-of-doors rain or shine, except during severe weather such as a thunderstorm. The pavilion provides shelter from rain and sun.

What's a typical day like?

Each day begins with a tradition called "the spot," in which all campers and instructors gather together and one camper from each group shares something interesting they discovered the previous day. This is a great way for the different age groups to interact and the campers to get to know one another.

After the spot, each group begins their morning activity. Activities could include:

  • Exploring the life of a stream
  • Observing and catching insects in a field
  • Visiting a woodland pool and looking for frogs and salamanders
  • Going on a nature scavenger hunt
  • Learning to identify common tree species
  • Engaging in an interactive ecological learning game like Bat-Moth
  • Testing Rice Creek's water quality
  • Getting creative with art activities

Groups enjoy lunch outdoors, in "the field" or back at the pavilion, and then head out to a new location for the afternoon or engage in learning games near the building.

How are groups assigned?

Participants are split into groups according to age. While parents/guardians can request their child be placed in the same group as another child during registration, we cannot guarantee that children will be in the same group if they are more than 1 year apart in age or more than 1 grade level apart.

Groups are filled on a first-come basis, upon receiving full payment with completed registration materials.

Are lunch and snacks provided?

Please check back for updated details pertaining to summer 2024.

For the 2024 summer, there is an option to have lunch provided for an additional $45 per child, per week. If you receive a scholarship, lunch will be included free of charge.  If your child brings lunch, it must be nut-free. Snacks are not provided. If your child is frequently hungry, we suggest packing nut-free snacks.

Who will my child interact with?

Exploring Nature is led by K-12 educators who are passionate about outdoor education. Our youngest age groups (5-8 year-olds) have an instructor and an instructor's assistant. All other groups have a single instructor. We cap groups so as not to exceed 12:1 camper-to-instructor ratios.

Participants may also interface with Kristen Haynes, the Director of Exploring Nature, with other program or field station staff, and with guest presenters, but will always remain under the custody, care, and supervision of their instructor.

All program staff have been cleared by SUNY Oswego's Child Protection Compliance Administrator and have completed mandatory child protection training.

Flexible drop-off and pick-up activity providers include SUNY Oswego students who have also been trained and cleared through SUNY Oswego's Child Protection Compliance Administrator. 

Is paper registration available?

We have gone paperless. If you experience difficulties with the online registration, please reach out to Chelsea Ginett at chelsea.ginett@oswego.edu.

What COVID-19 safety measures are you implementing?

Based on our current guidance, we expect all restrictions to be lifted unless children are in a quarantine period after recovering from COVID-19, in which case, they will need to wear a mask while indoors or during close outdoor contact with others. If additional safety measures become necessary prior to the program start per CDC or the NYS Department of Health, we will inform parents/guardians as soon as possible. Your children's health is our #1 priority.

How do I request a refund?

Cancelations made by June 17 will be refunded by check with no questions asked. After June 17, refunds will not be issued except in the case of extenuating circumstances like illness or a family emergency.

To request a refund, please email chelsea.ginett@oswego.edu, including your name and mailing address.

Contact us

For registration questions, please contact summeryouthprogram@oswego.edu. For program questions, please contact rcfs@oswego.edu or 315-312-6677.