outdoor activity

Healthy Living at Summer Camp

From the time that I was very young my family and I have been attending a summer camp in southern Michigan. Camp has always been a big part of my life, so when I became a counselor for the camp three years ago, I made it a goal of mine to give my campers the same, positive, experience my counselors gave to me. However, I knew there was one aspect of being a counselor that I wanted to improve on from the counselors of the past.

As a camper I always got sick as summer camp is a place for kids to play around in dirt, the lake, and be in close quarters with one another. I realized that there were little things that not only I, but other counselors and kids could do to prevent sickness. Campers and counselors were required to wash and sanitize their hands before every meal, shower at scheduled times, change out of wet clothing and swimsuits when not in the water, and clean the cabins daily. I knew these practices were helping the campers’ health as I noticed both my campers and I were getting sick less often.

Two summers ago a large storm swept through the camp, causing many of the cabins to flood. Limited space required the counselors and campers to stay in the water-ridden cabins. I realized quickly that this was not good for our health. My fellow counselors and I asked to be moved out of the cabin, explaining that we thought our kids were getting sick because of the forming mold. We were moved to different cabins that had some room and immediately saw our campers becoming healthier.

After the flood, action was taken immediately to solve the flooding problem. Erosion, due to campers walking off paths, and general rainfall was a main cause of the floods. Construction was done to help move run-off water away from the cabins.

Although children are usually at summer camp for a relatively small amount of time, it is important that they stay healthy while having fun! Summer camp provides a fun “getaway” from daily living, but also provides a chance for kids to learn a variety of life values, including independence. It is not only up to the counselors, but the campers to achieve healthy practices. While the counselors must teach, the campers must perform.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Water Pollution caused by Actions on Land

Last summer I was a lifeguard on Myrtle Beach. It was a fun yet stressful job to say the least. I was constantly asked about the presence of jellyfish and, of course, sharks, but was rarely asked of the quality of the water. Only once sections of the beach were closed were questions raised, indirectly, towards water quality.

The answer as to why beaches were being closed was easy to answer: the waters in the areas closed down were unsafe because of environmental degradation. Streams of water leading from the land beyond the beach to the ocean are caused by “swashes.” Swashes are areas of the beach where water has washed onshore after an incoming wave has broken, causing sand and other light particles to cover the beach. There are signs around the swashes warning beach-goers that it is not safe to play in the streams for fear of health concerns, as the water in the streams harbor bacteria caused by pollution. However, the shallow, calm waters and large, rounded rocks provide a seemingly harmless playground to children and families.

The pipelines that surge run-off from the land to the ocean create an easy access for pollution to reach the water on our beaches. Sections of the beach close down usually after periods of rainfall, as rain moves ample amounts of pollutants into the ocean. Most of the pollutants that are in the water are caused by what people are doing on land. Some actions that cause ocean contamination and pollution include:

  • Automobile and boat use
  • Pesticide use
  • Garbage dumping
  • Land-clearing
  • Toxic waste dumping
  • Oil spills

The bacteria, pollutions, wastes, and pesticides in oceans and on beaches can have detrimental health effects to humans, especially children. These health effects include:

  • Sore Throat
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)

The problem in our coastal waters is one that should concern us. Children like to play on the sand and in the water, making them more susceptible to the health effects caused by pollution.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

“The Great Outdoors”

The great snow storm that hit the East Coast last week left all of us in DC wondering what to do without work, school, and many other things that were shut down due to the snow. As soon as the snow hit, I was outside. Throughout the week I was determined to get out of my apartment and enjoy the snow as much as I could. I was outside a lot, but I was not the only one! People filled the streets, walking to the huge snowball fight in the city, shoveling snow, and sledding wherever possible.

This was shocking to see, as most of the news shows urged people to stay inside. It was great to see a substantial amount of kids outside, and admittedly, a little shocking as well. I expected the kids to stay inside to watch their TVs, text on their cell phones, and play video games. However, kids filled the streets and the sledding hills.

It is important for children to get outdoors! Not only are they missing out on the beauty of the world, but perhaps it is part of the reason why there is an increase in childhood obesity.

The No Child Left Inside Act is a good start for children to get outside and learn about the environment during the school day, but it is not enough. It is important for parents to encourage their kids to go outside and play, and even better if they join them in the play! If you’re having difficulties thinking of things to do in your own backyard or neighborhood, here are a few activities I used to do when I was younger:

  • Plant a garden
  • Go on a bike ride
  • Play basketball
  • Roller-skate
  • Play in the sprinkler
  • Rake leaves
  • Walk the dog

So, the big question is what will happen when all the snow has melted away, and the power is back on, and the children are back in school and parents back at work? Will children and their parents still continue to play outside? We all made the best of the snow and had our fun, but the fun doesn’t have to stop there!

What outdoors activities do you and your children do for fun?

About the author: Nikki Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.