I stopped by the Weston Road Community Gardens to see what was going on at Wellesley EcoCamp, one of the town’s best-kept secrets, now in its second year delivering free summer fun in conjunction with the Wellesley Conservation Council (WCC), the Wellesley Youth Commission, and the Natural Resources Commission. The one-week day-camp program for 24 middle school students is packed with outdoor-oriented activities as nuts and bolts as tick, sun, and hydration safety all the way on up to a drone workshop.
When I got there WCC board member Michael Tobin’s drone was already up in the air and campers were immersed in learning about the technology behind how it works. I looked up. No drone. I couldn’t tell where it was, but the kids could. They were watching the 1.5 lb. remote-controlled aerial vehicle’s movements on a tracking screen as it flew down Weston Rd. toward Wellesley Square.
“So you can see how far away it is and what rate of speed it’s traveling at,” Tobin said. “Right now it’s going 35 miles per hour and it’s about 2,000 feet away. That’s around 1/3 of a mile. It’s got a lot of intelligent features on it. It can recognize the difference between people, cars, and bicycles. You give it a follow command and it will do it.”
One of the kids asked how much a drone costs and Tobin told him his model runs about $1,500.
“Save your pennies, kids,” said WCC board member Pete Jones, not one to miss out on the fun of drone demonstration day. “Lemonade stands work.”
The camp’s goal is to expose kids to the environment around them and provide them with the skills necessary to safely enjoy the outdoors. Some of the other conservation-related activities on the jam-packed schedule: field trips around town to Gurnsey Sanctuary and Elm Bank Reservation; a fishing clinic by a Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife representative; and swimming at Morses Pond, of course.
The Wellesley Youth Commission has for years been offering free, top-quality camp programs with the Wellesley Police Department, Wellesley Fire Department and Wellesley Public Media. Our kids tried out the police and fire department camps and had a blast at both.
The programs are all full now, but it’s never to early to plan ahead for next year. Sign-up for the programs is typically announced sometime in January. At that time, applicants may choose to apply to any of the summer exploration programs, but applicants can attend only one program per summer. Participants identify their first, second, and third choices. Participants are chosen by lottery in the first week in February, and notified by email once the lottery has been completed.