Finger Lakes Summer Camp Unveils Extended Overnight Options for Younger Campers and Expanded Offerings with Arnot Forest Camp at Cornell's 4,200 Acre Teaching Forest

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Leading nature and wilderness skills educators at the 4-H Primitive Pursuits program launch their newly branded Arnot Forest Camp, with an expanded age range and longer camp options for summer 2019.

Longer-term wilderness immersions have been a long-time goal for our staff and an ongoing request from parents.

Originally created in 1998 by Dave Hall as an afterschool program to teach students outdoor skills like plant identification and primitive craft-making, Primitive Pursuits has since become a household name in Tompkins County, setting standards for wilderness education in the region, and connecting thousands to the land we live on. Under the stewardship of Co-Founders Jed Jordan and Tim Drake, the program has grown to offer numerous programs for all age ranges, starting as young as three all the way up to adult. Through an abundance of great programs, and under the wing of Cornell Cooperative Extension and Tompkins County 4-H, Primitive Pursuits is continuously working to increase outreach throughout the region to provide positive developmental experiences in nature to as many youth as possible.

Primitive Pursuits’ Arnot Forest Camp provides students the opportunity to safely test and improve their outdoor skills under the supervision of seasoned wilderness instructors. Within the 4,200 acres of Cornell’s historic Arnot Teaching Forest, the camp is designed to foster confidence, friendships, and a life-long appreciation for wild nature.

With a low (1:8) staff-camper ratio and staff who encourage respect for self, others, and nature, campers build meaningful and personal connections with their instructors. These mentorships enrich the camper experience and cultivates interest in exploring the natural world.

The latest camps offer opportunities for more youth to get involved with programs for ages of 9-16.

“It’s very exciting for us,” says Program Director Sarah Birnbaum. “We were getting a lot of interest from families of young day-campers who wanted more. We wanted to create a new opportunity for them that could be tailored to their age and coming to camp for the first time. There may be some campers that have never slept outside before and our new program provides those campers with an easeful introduction.”

Primitive Pursuits is offering three camp themes designed to cater to each student’s experience level and interests. Students can build up their natural knowledge in their six-day Forest Explorers Camp. Here, younger students ages 9-12 master the arts of self-reliance, confidence, and a passion for adventure all while discovering the basic skills required to survive and thrive in the wilderness.

Older students 13-16 can enjoy the Teen Rendezvous Camp, in which campers can experience a strong mix of learning and relaxation. At this camp, instructors provide students with the resources necessary to enjoy the freedom of the wilderness, while also offering focused workshops and activities based on the interests of the campers.

Students from the ages of 11-16 are invited to attend the brand new 13-day offering, Wilderness Quest, which offers students the opportunity to sink deeper into their wildlife experience. Once students hone their skills, campers form teams to take on a survival challenge in the outback.

Most camps can be combined camps, giving families the option to create an outdoor wilderness experience of up to 27 days.

These program updates were made in response to consistent feedback from both campers and parents.

“When kids express a desire to stay at camps longer it shows that what we are doing is working, and that they themselves understand the benefits,” says Primitive Pursuits Founding Director, Jed Jordan. “Longer-term immersions have been a long-time goal for staff and an ongoing request from parents. There's a lot of effort that goes into group forming and establishing routines, and we know that a longer experience out there will result in a more timeless and wonder-filled space."

Primitive Pursuits is a leader in outdoor education with the intention of creating strong and supportive learning communities. Through these camps, Primitive Pursuits fulfills its mission to steward the health of the Tompkins County community by fostering life-long relationships with the natural world through exceptional mentoring and nature education.

“We hope campers take away a vision of personal well-being, and how to live in good relationship to each other and the planet,” says Jed Jordan. “Kids deserve a chance to experience the beauty and wealth of the natural world that endures, despite the stories of planetary-decline saturating our daily lives. They deserve to experience resilience and a chance to relate to these changes in the natural world on a more personal level and an opportunity to make more empowered conclusions about the world they’re inheriting.”

The Arnot Forest Camp is ideal for any young learners seeking a fully immersive nature experience and a chance to build self-confidence and positive leadership skills.

For more information about the program and the application process, visit

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Megan Pugh

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