River exploration, archaeology and more at Robinson Nature Center camps

Summer break finds many kids sleeping in, riding bikes and splashing in the pool. But it’s not every day you come across a pastime like Autumn Boit’s.

“Yesterday I skipped lunch to clean artifacts,” the Ellicott City fourth-grader declared on a humid August morning at Robinson Nature Center.

The nature center, which opened in Columbia in the fall of 2011, held its first series of summer camps in 2012 — including Autumn’s “Digging Up the Past” archaeology camp.

With 18 forested acres, Robinson Nature Center is full of ways to keep children engaged during the summer. While some children cleaned and examined artifacts, others splashed in the Middle Patuxent at River Explorers camp, and others tested their skills in Nature Games and Surviving off the Land camps.

“Our whole mission is to connect people with the outdoors, be it wildlife or cultural history or what happened on this piece of land hundreds of years ago,” says Meagan Leatherbury, program manager for the James & Anne Robinson Nature Center, which is operated by Howard County’s Department of Recreation & Parks.

“Part of the mission is to get people out there,” Leatherbury says. “ … With the archaeology camp, we want (children) to understand that archaeology is right in their backyard.”

The archaeology camp, led by Glenelg resident M. Lee Preston Jr., president of the Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group, included about 20 children between the ages of 8 and 10.

“The most interesting thing I found was a green arrowhead,” says Patrick Schreier, 9, of Columbia.

Preston says he was pleased with the camp’s trial run in 2012. “The kids seemed to enjoy it,” he says. “I always have a closing ceremony for 45 minutes with a Power Point demonstration that shows parents what they did for the week.”

The allure of the outdoors holds true for many Robinson campers — the center’s most popular camp, according to Leatherbury, was River Explorers.

“We filled that camp with one session and opened a second session another week and filled that as well — with a waiting list,” she says.

In addition to Digging Up the Past, River Explorers, Nature Games and Surviving Off the Land, Robinson Nature Center’s 2013 camps include Lil’ Acorns and Lil’ Pinecones camps for preschoolers, and Outta This World camp in the center’s planetarium. For more information, go to

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