The SolarSPELL team (from left: Brooke, Dr. Hosman, Kristen, Maddie, Jeremy, Ricardo, and Chloe) in front of the notorious Sparky water tank, taken by one of Tontozona’s kind camp leaders.

Recently, members of the SolarSPELL team visited Tonto Creek Camp (TCC), SolarSPELL’s first Arizona implementation site, to brainstorm different ways an Arizona Natural Resources SolarSPELL library could enhance the Tonto Creek Camp experience for campers and leaders. The team was treated to an impromptu tour by TCC staff member, Rico, who shared his firsthand knowledge of the camp and the types of resources that would best supplement the lessons that nature inherently provides.

In addition to highlighting some of Tonto Creek Camp’s programs and activities, Rico also shared some of the camp’s history throughout the tour. He was an excellent source of knowledge, and through his expertise, was able to recommended content areas that could meaningfully impact the students’ educational experience. For example, Rico mentioned campers’ interest in engineering concepts, geology, and organic gardening, among various other topics, including wilderness survival, plant and wildlife identification, and problem solving skills.

TCC provides great opportunities for youth campers to learn valuable lessons outside of a typical classroom by connecting them with nature, and to encourage curiosity and creativity about where nature and their school studies intersect. It was incredible to listen to the stories Rico shared of campers’ experiences and the way camp has impacted them and their lives. One experience he shared was about the wonder and excitement from students who get to truly see the stars for the first time away from the light pollution of busy cities. Campers are taught introductory lessons in astronomy and given an opportunity to tie this memorable experience in with science materials. The SolarSPELL AZ Natural Resources Library will provide supplemental resources and materials for campers to access and learn about their new interests!

As the SolarSPELL team was getting ready to return to the Valley, they had the great fortune of running into Tom, the CEO of Tonto Creek Camp, who has been working closely with the SolarSPELL team. He, along with the SolarSPELL team, shared excitement about what’s to come from the collaboration between Tonto Creek Camp and SolarSPELL.

Next, the SolarSPELL team will complete curating the first version of the AZ Natural Resources SolarSPELL digital library and begin the initial stages of implementing this library at TCC! ASU students will continue to work on the project through implementation, measurement and evaluation, and additional curation, resulting from the pilot phase outcomes.

Stay tuned for what’s to come!