MetroParks, ThinkTV offer virtual summer camps

 Five Rivers MetroParks and local PBS station, ThinkTV, are co-presenting a virtual Explore the Outdoors Nature Camp with PBS Kids show Nature Cat.
The six-day, educational camp starts airing on ThinkTV’s Facebook and online Monday, Aug. 10,  at 10 a.m. and will continue through Saturday, Aug. 15. Episodes explore Dayton’s natural spaces, parks, wildlife and more.

“This production was born through the combined efforts of Dayton’s local PBS station and Five Rivers MetroParks to highlight Miami Valley’s child-friendly natural areas and communities,” said Joshua York, MetroParks education coordinator. “We have local outdoor experiences that rival opportunities offered in national parks, and these videos share only a fraction of the adventure that await families when they visit a MetroPark.”

Explore the Outdoors Nature Camp features appearances from MetroParks educators and characters from Nature Cat. The PBS Kids show Nature Cat follows Fred, a housecat who dreams of exploring the great outdoors. Once his family leaves for the day, Fred transforms into Nature Cat and embarks on adventures full of outdoor investigation.

Scheduled episodes are:

  • Monday, Aug. 10: Getting Ready for Camp
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11: Exploring Creeks
  • Wednesday, Aug 12: Exploring the Forest
  • Thursday, Aug. 13: Art in Nature
  • Friday, Aug. 14: Nature in the City
  • Saturday, Aug. 15: Animals

“We didn’t want to just tell kids about nature,” said ThinkTV producer Gregory Schell. “We want to ‘show’ them and challenge them to engage with nature right outside their window — no matter where they live.”

ThinkTV’s vision for the nature-based virtual camps is to collaborate with local organizations to address the lack of in-person, camps and outdoor programming opportunities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. MetroParks also recognizes the need to provide support to underserved populations and is working to provide resources that encourage families to explore the outdoors for their mental and physical health, in addition to providing nature-based educational opportunities that encourage outdoor exploration. Lack of access to these summer opportunities disproportionally affects lower-income families, as children in these households are more adversely affected by the “summer slide” — the learning loss students experience when they are not in the classroom during the summer.

According to research by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, students lose 2.6 months of academic skills during the summer months, which is compounded by school and other facility closures due to COVID-19. Without equitable access to academic and life-enriching opportunities — such as summer camps and visits to museums, parks and more — the achievement gap among lower-income students widens.

“We recognize this is an especially challenging time for parents, educators and students because no one knows exactly what classrooms will look like this academic year,” said Amy Dingle, MetroParks director of outdoor connections. “We do know that, through community collaborations, we can find creative ways to provide fun, engaging resources for parents and teachers to use in classrooms and with their families.”

ThinkTV and Five Rivers MetroParks’ Explore the Outdoors Nature Camp, featuring Nature Cat, will be made available nationwide starting Aug. 10. The next phase of the initiative will be to incorporate the content into lesson plans for educators. This virtual nature camp can be watched by visiting or

Celebrating more than 50 years of preserving green space and natural areas, Five Rivers MetroParks is a nationally renowned park system composed of natural area parks, gardens, high-quality river corridors, urban parks and a network of recreation trails. Five Rivers MetroParks protects the region’s natural heritage and provides outdoor experiences that inspire a personal connection with nature. Educational programs and recreational opportunities are offered year-round for all ages. Five Rivers MetroParks is accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies. To learn more about Five Rivers MetroParks, visit or call 937-275-PARK (7275).


Public Media Connect is Southwest Ohio’s leading provider of education and enrichment in both living rooms and classrooms, serving more than 3 million people in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton communities. Through PBS and local programming, innovative multimedia curriculum projects, parent workshops and professional development for teachers, Public Media Connect – CET and ThinkTV – positively impacts our community with rich and diverse resources.

Public Media Connect’s mission is to strengthen the communities and region we serve by providing content and services that engage, inspire and inform, educate and entertain, fostering culture and citizenship, the joy of learning and the power of diverse perspectives.

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