After a long, fun, difficult, rewarding summer, we have finally reached the end. This summer we took four different YMCAs from Greater Boston (Oak Square, Huntington, Dorchester, and Roxbury), to three different National Parks (Boston National Historical Park, Boston African American National Historic Site, and Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park) here in Boston.  

Our summer started out with bringing the different YMCAs to the Charlestown Navy Yard. At the yard we took the kids on tours of two real battleships that served our country in different points of time. The first was the USS Constitution, which was ordered to be built by George Washington in 1797 along with six other ships, and is still an active Navy vessel. The kids were allowed to roam free among the decks and explore. The next battleship was the USS Cassin Young, which served in WWII and fought in the Pacific against Japanese forces. Ranger Sebastian led us on a tour of the ship and showed us the top deck while pointing out facts and interesting details along the way. The day would end in the older kids being able to go on a scavenger hunt and run around the yard, while the younger kids would create tin foil boats and see how many coins it can carry.  

The following week, we took our first island trip to Georges Island, one of the 34 islands located in Boston Harbor! At Georges we did an activity with the younger kids called Storm the Fort. In this activity campers got to act as spies, trying to infiltrate the fort by paying attention to its architecture and design. The older campers heard the famous ghost story of Georges Island, the Lady in Black. After this, we took them down the Dark Arch, a pitch black passageway where Melanie Lanier (the Lady in Black) supposedly. This part of the trip became a favorite highlight for the campers! At the end of the summer many would say it was their favorite part of the whole summer. 

 In the third week, with the help of Park Ranger Jen, we led older campers on a abbreviated tour of the Black Heritage Trail (BHT) located in Beacon Hill. Due to the heat we kept the younger campers at their YMCA and drove to them for the day. At the BHT, campers were first brought to the African Meeting House. At the African Meeting house, campers learned the Black National Anthem, and sang a few lines using responsorial singing. Afterwards, we stopped at the Lewis and Harriet Hayden House, which was one of the safe house stops on the Underground Railroad. There, Ranger Jen told the kids some interesting stories about the house and its history. The last stop we went to was the Robert Shaw Memorial. Here, the campers were also able to rest while Ranger Jen explained how the first Black regiment came to be enshrined in this memorial. Although we were only able to take two YMCAs to the BHT due to heat, it seemed the campers that were able to go took a lot away from their visit. At the YMCA, campers were introduced to broadsides that were used back in the 1800s, and eventually were able to create their own.  

In week four, we took campers to Peddocks Island, another one of the 34 islands in Boston Harbour. At Peddocks Island, campers were able to learn how to build tents, go fishing, and go on a nature walk of the island. Most of the campers loved learning these skills and overall really enjoyed this week! Sadly, Roxbury was not able to go to Peddocks Island due to a strong thunderstorm that day, but we were able to bring the tent building to them.  

During our final week, campers were brought back to the Charlestown Navy Yard where they were able to do many activities while enjoying their last day with us. Everyone’s favorite activity was the water games, which included a relay race to bring as much water from one bucket to the other only using a sponge or by balancing a cup on their head. The next activity was a game called monkey ball in which you would try to throw a rope ball (sailors’ monkey’s fist) with an additional rope attached into a hula hoop and drag the hoop back to you. The last activity was rope making, where Park Ranger Sebastian would show campers how to use an old rope making machine and string to make rope. Along with these activities the campers filled out a survey about their summer and recorded responses to our Essential Question which was, “What can parks and people do for one another?”. At the end of the day, we presented campers with a slideshow, featuring pictures of them throughout the summer along with gifting them National Park Passports, Division of Marine Fisheries coloring books, journals, pencil pouches, and a Buddy Bison. They also received Junior Ranger badges after reciting the Junior Ranger pledge.  

This summer, like I said earlier, had a lot of ups and downs. But overall, it was a great experience and I hope to work for the Hill to Harbor Youth Conservation Corps again. 

Campers select stickers to decorate their Hill to Harbor camp water bottles.
Campers sit on a fence while on a nature walk on Peddocks Island.
Youth employees smile with their completed telephone booth filled with camper photos and the essential question of the summer.

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