Nurturing nature


Thorne Natural Science School connects kids with nature Thorne Natural Science School, for kids ranging from toddlers to teens, is celebrating its 53rd anniversary this year. The camp began in Boulder in 1957 and expanded to its Waterton Canyon location in Littleton in 1995. TNSS teaches kids to respect nature, while encouraging them to learn about different ecosystems and discover the great outdoors. Boulder Weekly caught up with TNSS to discuss what the camp offers kids of all ages.

BW: What kind of summer camp is Thorne?

TNSS: Thorne Natural Science School is a camp for nature-lovers and science enthusiasts! TNSS is a fun, experiential day camp that engages children ages 3 to 15 in handson learning outdoors and encourages earth stewardship. TNSS instructors are highly qualified and have extensive experience as environmental educators.

BW: What types of kids enjoy the camp?

TNSS: TNSS is for kids who enjoy exploring nature — kids that see a rock and want to know what lives underneath it, or see a frog and want to catch it! It is a camp for kids who want to play outside, discover, get their feet wet and have fun.

BW: What kinds of classes are offered? What are the daily activities?

TNSS: TNSS offers environmental education classes on a variety of topics for students ages 3-15. We have both half-day and full-day options. Some examples of topics include: insects, wilderness survival skills, fly fishing, biking, and bird banding with our legendary founder, Oakleigh Thorne!

The daily activities vary depending on the class, but all include nature lessons, games, craft making and exploration time. A student in “At home in the woods” will learn how to identify useful plants, track animals and build an emergency debris hut out of tree branches. A student in “Bird Banding” will learn to catch and safely handle live birds, while learning the science behind these amazing animals and their migration.

Most Boulder classes meet at Boulder High School at 8:15 a.m., departing by school bus at 8:30 a.m. to a different trail each day. By visiting a different local trail each day, students are able to experience the variety of ecosystems right here in Boulder. After arriving at the trailhead, each class embarks on their daily activities, returning to Boulder High at 12 p.m.

Students who participate in the afternoon session are then taken to the Sombrero Marsh Environmental Education Center, where the fun continues with a new theme each week.

BW: What will kids learn at the camp? 

TNSS: Kids will learn about the natural world and the local ecology of Boulder by studying the plants and animals that live in each ecosystem that we visit. All TNSS kids learn to respect nature and one another, while learning a variety of skills like collecting water insects, tracking animals, finding natural dyes for art and searching for fossils. In nature, the learning opportunities are often serendipitous and our instructors are able to teach about the magic that happens in the moment.

BW: What are the future plans for the camp?

TNSS: TNSS plans to have full student enrollment for each class we run (max. of 12 students) so sign up your children soon. Other than that, there aren’t any major foreseen changes in the near future — but we do plan to keep exploring outdoors.

BW: How does this camp encourage an appreciation of nature and our environment?

TNSS: The goal of each TNSS class is to instill a sense of awe and enjoyment of nature. Thorne believes that if kids are outside, if they can touch live animals, discover what lives in the mud, understand human impacts, and have role models that can teach by example, students will walk away with a greater appreciation of the natural world. By first exploring and then gaining knowledge of the environment, TNSS students understand the role they play as stewards of the Earth and they grow up with the skills to be well-informed, responsible citizens of their community.

BW: Where are you located? 

TNSS: Thorne’s main office is located at the Sombrero Marsh Environmental Education Center at 63rd and Arapahoe in Boulder. Thorne Natural Science School classes meet at Boulder High School at 1604 Arapahoe Ave. in the morning and travel to a different Boulder Open Space and Mountain Park ecosystems each day via school bus.

Thorne also has a site at Waterton Canyon in Littleton.

Respond: [email protected]

For more info 
Thorne Natural Science School P.O. Box 19107 Boulder, CO 80308 303-499-3647 [email protected]


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