Every year, Seth Cruz looks forward to summer days covered in mud, searching for butterflies.
“My favorite is when we go outside and do nature things,” Seth, 7, said while describing the activities available at Outdoor Adventure camp.
The camp, inside Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park — a 22-acre oasis located at 1725 NE 135th St. in North Miami — offers hands-on activities, nature hikes, arts and crafts, and field trips.
This year, sessions will begin on June 10 and end Aug. 2. They will run weekdays 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and admit children ages 6-11.
In addition to the Outdoor Adventure camp, the park also offers an Enchanted Forest camp that admits children ages 6-14 and runs weekdays 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Lola Heasley, a park naturalist, manages Enchanted Forest Park, which stays open year-round for tours, parties, presentations and horseback-riding lessons.
“The kids make me feel like a superstar,” said Heasley, 48, who has been working as a camp counselor for more than 15 years. “I feel very grateful that they are part of my life and that I have the opportunity to do this.”
Heide Marando, 40, the mother of two long-time camp-goers, said the program has taught her and her family to appreciate nature.
“We’ve all learned a lot about nature,” Marando said. “We even planted green beans in our backyard, and my husband uses them to make our dinners.”
With two grown-up sons, Heasley is able to dedicate most of her time to the campers and the park. She spends weeks prior to the summer camp planning the schedule and uses children’s handbooks and the library as resources to plan it.
“She genuinely cares about the kids and takes them outdoors, but also provides a good balance of activity,” said Mayling Ganuza, the 31-year-old mother of a camper.
There are weekly themes established for the Outdoor Adventure camp. This year, the children will learn about the Florida Everglades, galaxies, gardens and butterflies, among other topics.
On the first day of each session, background on the subject is taught, followed by daily presentations that build on each other to more fully educate the children.
For Grace Cruz, Seth’s mother, it is the freedom that the children have when at camp that keeps her enrolling her son every year.
“Ms. Lola [Heasley] provides something that doesn’t exist too much anymore, something old-fashioned,” said Ms. Cruz, 48. “She is the hippie of now.”