Foothills Conservancy’s Our Big Backyard summer camp

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina announces the return of its annual Our Big Backyard summer camp taking place June 24-28.

Our Big Backyard (OBB) is a traveling day camp created in partnership with the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Burke County Center, with the purpose of immersing children ages 8-12 in the outdoors, increasing their environmental literacy through fun, educational activities. Over the camp’s five-day course, campers will catch and release native fish, explore Lake James State Park, tour a local farm, create jam from hand-picked blueberries, and enjoy other fun outdoor activities.

“We take the campers to nearby places, less than 20 minutes from Morganton, which inspired the name of the camp – Our Big Backyard,” said Beth Willard-Patton, associate director of Foothills Conservancy. “We choose destinations that are free or nearly free in hopes that campers will continue to have outdoor adventures with their families even after camp has ended. The activities throughout the week challenge campers to learn something new about their natural world and help them make new friends.”

OBB also focuses on physical fitness and healthy eating as campers are provided a free, healthy meal and snacks each day. The program prioritizes children with a financial barrier to participating in a traditional summer camp, and OBB is dedicated to maintaining racial and gender diversity.

N.C. Cooperative Extension, Burke County Center, is once again providing its facilities for the week, and trained individuals from the 4-H Teen Leader Internship Program will participate as camp mentors, while the conservancy will supply adult volunteers.

OBB is funded completely by grants, private gifts and in-kind donations of local businesses. The conservancy has received generous support from Burke County United Way, Carolinas HealthCare Systems Blue Ridge Foundation, International Paper Foundation and the Burke Women’s Fund, a sector of the Community Foundation of Burke County, which will incorporate STEM learning into this year’s program and help provide a fuel cell car kit for each camper.

“I’m excited we have the opportunity to offer the fuel cell kits to foster STEM learning,” said Willard-Patton. “Thanks to the Burke Women’s Fund, each camper will learn about renewable energy through science and technology with a tangible illustration of a clean energy solution.”

To apply for Our Big Backyard, visit and download the application at the bottom of the page. Applications are due to Foothills Conservancy staff at 204 Avery Ave. in Morganton no later than May 1. This camp is not first-come-first-serve and participants are chosen by a selection committee. For more information, call Beth Willard-Patton or Sophie Shelton at 828-437-9930.