By Henry DiRocco
One of the most enjoyable summer vacations I have ever
had included being part of a Forestry Institute for Teachers summer camp. To
introduce myself, I am Henry DiRocco, currently an interpretive naturalist,
trainer, vegetative manager, and a Reserve Park Ranger for Orange County Parks.
I was fortunate to be chosen to participate in the 2011 Camp McCumber FIT
session, located in the Lassen National Forest, just outside of Lassen Volcanic
National Park in Northern California. Not only was the Forestry Institute summer
camp a whole bunch of fun and excitement, but it was probably also one of the
most valuable opportunities for professional development I think I have ever
attended. FIT, as it is called, is all about helping educators understand how
our California forest ecology works and how forest science and knowledge can be
integrated into a wide variety of educational curriculum.
Think of it as a weeklong outdoor science camp for adults, and attendance is free! FIT is sponsored by a
number of organizations, including The Forest Foundation, The Society of
American Foresters, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection,
the US Forest Service, and the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Teachers chosen to participate receive all of their lodging, meals, on-site tour
and instruction at no cost, which includes enough take-away materials, books and
handouts to stuff a suitcase. Participants only have to arrange for travel to
and from the camps and the organization picks up all of the rest of the costs.
For those desiring continuing education credits, that is also available through
the UCCE program.
Participation is open to educators of all different types and kinds. I consider myself to be a
non-traditional educator. Back when I attended, I was working as a volunteer
Docent Naturalist at a nature conservancy in southern California, providing
wilderness activities to a wide spectrum of public program attendees. Others at
my camp were traditional teachers from public and private schools, ranging from
Kindergarten through high school. Hopeful FIT campers must submit an application
form, and camp acceptances are given in plenty of time to plan your summer.
While being at a FIT summer camps is in hot demand, there are often
cancellations, and those on waiting lists often have last minute chances to
In addition to learning about forests and forest ecology, a wide variety of other environmental sciences are
presented. Curriculum from popular environmental programs such as Project
Learning Tree, Project WET, and Project WILD are presented. Campers also are
given the chance to make up their own minds on critical issues and concepts.
Numerous guest presenters provide unedited perspectives dealing with forest
ecology. The campers are able to decide for themselves how they feel about
different forest issues and how they could present them back in their own
workplaces. And while the camp content is geared around forest ecology, it was
surprising how much of what we experienced was easily able to be translated to
my urban Southern California activities.
Of course, no summer camp would be complete without great chances to relax and socialize, and FIT is no
different. There are nighttime campfires, sing-alongs, as well as opportunities
to take side-trips into the local area. At Camp McCumber, which sat on a
forested lake, an afternoon canoeing session gave us a chance to see osprey and
bald eagles fishing and flying about the treetops.
The 2014 schedule for the four FIT camps run during the last two weeks of June and the first few weeks of July.
Applications are still being accepted. Camps are held in Humboldt, Plumas,
Shasta and Tuolumne counties. For further information please explore the FIT