About Us

Schoolhouse 101

Welcome! Thanks for your interest in learning a little more about Schoolhouse of Wonder.  

Schoolhouse of Wonder offers outdoor day camps, field trips, and leadership training for children and teens in Durham, Wake, and Orange Counties in North Carolina. But we’re much more than a place where kids can get outside and have some fun. Schoolhouse of Wonder is a place where everyone can play, learn, and grow toward being their best selves!

We believe open-hearted children become open-minded adults—and that vision creates the foundation for everything we do.

We’ve been serving North Carolina children and families for 30 years, and we’ve been selected as the Best Summer Camp Winner or Finalist in Indy’s Best of the Triangle for seven straight years in one or more Triangle counties. 

Keep reading to learn more about our programs, activities, where our camps are located, and the Schoolhouse difference.


Programs

 

 

Summer Camps for Kids
Ages 5-7 and 8-12

We offer 3- and 5-day outdoor day camps for children ages 5-7 and 8-12. Each summer we offer a few camps with an overnight component.


School Break and Track Out Camps
for Kids Ages 5-12

These camps, ranging from 1-5 days, are scheduled to coincide with teacher work days, holidays, intersessions, and other school breaks; starting in September and running through May.


Leadership Training for Teenagers Ages 13 – 17

Our Counselor in Training (CIT) program gives youth the opportunity to increase their self-confidence, leadership capacity, and accountability while enhancing their skills for the workforce. CITs support our younger campers and learn from our dedicated camp staff. During the summer they can serve for a single week, a few weeks, or even a month or more. Individuals who participate in the CIT program then have the opportunity to further their leadership skills by applying for employment with Schoolhouse of Wonder as a Junior Counselor.


Field Trips
Kindergarten Through 6th Grade

We offer field trips for elementary and middle school students at our Durham location at West Point on the Eno from early September through mid-December and early March through mid-May, with some limited winter availability. Options include Ecosystems & Living Organisms – Forest and River, Eno Plan Walk, Insect Adventures, Early American Life, Native Ways, and Geology.


Activities

Each camp features a nature-based theme, though these themes change each week so a new adventure is always on the horizon. However, camps typically include any number of the following activities for campers to enjoy:

Games 

Games might include Kick the Can, Scout Mission, Sock Wars, Backweli, Werewolf, Six Feathers (a Schoolhouse original!), Park Ranger, Beckon, Dragon’s Egg, Jump the Creek, Camoflage, and Windigo (another Schoolhouse original)!

Stories

Storytelling has always been a sacred and beloved tradition at Schoolhouse, and we believe there is a storyteller in all of us. Campers are invited to immerse themselves in the exciting and ancient art of storytelling by listening to old tales and helping to spin new ones.

Music

The hills are alive with the sound of music when camp is in session! Our campers love crafting their own instruments, writing nature songs, and that old summer camp classic: sing-alongs.

Arts & Crafts

The sky is the limit and nature is our canvas when it comes to creating one-of-a-kind nature art, including fanciful creations like leaf art, rock stacks, mud faces, fairy and troll houses, monster masks, corn husk dolls, pine cone bird feeders, bat boxes, and whatever else our imagination can conjure!

Water-Play

Many of our activities center around our various waterways, including canoeing, rock skipping, building stick boats, identifying animal tracks in the mud, learning to observe and even handle some of the animals we find, and of course—wading, splashing, and floating!

Wilderness & Homesteading Skills

It’s back-to-basics with wilderness and bushcraft skills like primitive fire building, navigating with a compass and map, knot tying, tracking, making candles, sewing, and finding edible plants.

Adventurous Play

Some perceive activities like tomahawk throwing, climbing trees, swinging on a vine, and whittling to be too risky for kids. However, we believe that supervised risk-taking is an essential part of growing up and that these activities not only provide valuable experiences and opportunities to build skills and confidence—they’re fun!

Projects

Campers embark on any number of special projects, depending on the focus of their camp—these could include tracking and cataloging wildlife, building forts, making camouflage, service projects for our host sites, and more.

Animals & Insects

Campers learn to respect, find, and identify local critters like crawfish, salamanders, snakes, turtles, toads, deer, and more—and, for some animals, like snakes, kids learn proper identification and handling techniques.

Team-building

No, not trust falls! Schoolhouse of Wonder team-building takes the form of fun group challenges such as getting your group through a “spider web” or walking together on skis.

Campfire Cooking

Soup’s on! Campers learn to slice and dice veggies, make hobo packets, pita pizzas, pancakes, doughboys, pine needle tea, hot chocolate, chocolate cake, and of course, our favorite—s’mores!

Plant Identification

Kids enjoy searching for and learning to identify various plants, including those that are edible or have medicinal qualities. We often put our findings to good use by creating natural dyes, mixing up a natural bite and sting soother, and more.


Schoolhouse Traditions

Morning Circle
Morning circle is a tradition dating back to the very beginning of Schoolhouse. Campers and staff start their day sitting with their camp group to start the day together. The scent of cedar smoke fills the air as we pass around a smudge, letting the smoke waft over our bodies. In this silent time, we’re able to hear the forest come alive with bird calls, leaves rustling, and other sounds of the forest. After we pass the smudge, each person gets a chance to share their name and something they are thankful or grateful for. Morning circle is an intentional time to slow down, become present, and transition into the day from a place of gratitude.

Closing Circle
We begin and end each camp day in a circle. Campers and staff sit together and reflect on their day. A small natural item, typically found by a camper, serves as our “talking object.” When held, the talking object signals an opportunity to speak. Campers and staff share their favorite part of the day and give the entire group a chance to reflect on games played, critters seen, challenges faced, and other moments from our individual and collective adventures.

Family Circle
Each Friday afternoon of a camp week, parents are invited to participate in a special closing circle. Campers, parents, and staff alike share the highlight of their week. Soon after, campers gobble up delicious community snacks brought by their families, while parents mingle with our staff and peruse the camp store.

Growth Rings
“Growth Rings” is our system for acknowledging and celebrating growth in some of our core skills. Campers, CITs, and staff who choose to challenge themselves in areas like primitive fire making, plant identification, whittling, and snake identification and handling are offered escalating benchmarks. We use these “Rings” to encourage positive growth and development by setting appropriate goals and practicing follow through in a supportive environment.


Locations

 

Durham
Durham programs are held at West Point on the Eno City Park (5101 N Roxboro St, Durham, NC 27704). 

Orange
Orange programs are located at Brumley Forest Nature Preserve (3223 New Hope Church Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514).

Wake
Wake programs are located at Umstead State Park (Reedy Creek entrance, 2100 North Harrison Ave. Cary, NC 27513). Some spring and fall programs are also held at Harris Lake County Park (2112 County Park Dr, New Hill, NC 27562).


Why Schoolhouse of Wonder?

We Have a Passionate, Skilled, and Well-Trained Team

Our counselors are the heart and soul of Schoolhouse of Wonder and are the key ingredient to ensuring kids have an amazing camp experience (and learn some important lessons along the way). We strive to pay our staff a higher wage so we can recruit talented individuals who truly care about providing the very best, most nurturing, educational, and FUN experience for children. Many of our seasonal staff are pursuing higher education or careers in child development, outdoor recreation or nonprofit leadership; and our full-time professional staff have chosen to follow this career path thanks to a passion for children and nature.

We’re Vision and Values-Driven

We believe open-hearted children become open-minded adults—and that vision creates the foundation for everything we do.

Our camps, field trips, and leadership training are further anchored in our core values:

  • We model and teach self-awareness and empathy
  • We celebrate individuality; different is just different
  • Everyone deserves to be witnessed, heard, and respected
  • In nature, we’re all students
  • Life should be filled with adventures and a sense of wonder
  • We send every kid home dirty, tired, and happy

We Offer a Money-Back Guarantee

We will return your child Dirty, Tired, and Happy…or your money back. It’s really that simple.

While we’re confident and proud of our camps, we realize that no one community is a perfect fit for every child. So we offer you our Dirty, Tired, Happy Guarantee to build trust. We don’t know a better way to demonstrate the confidence we have in our programs than by putting our money where our mouth is. If for ANY reason your child decides that camp is not for them and chooses to leave camp before the end of the week, we’ll refund camp tuition for the remaining days.

Our Programming Is Unique, Innovative, and FUN!

(Psst – it’s also educational!)

Our games, activities, and projects are all designed to be fun, active, and to encourage group participation. Our campers have different experiences than they are used to—oftentimes, it’s the “old fashioned” kind of fun that many kids are missing out on today. Our staff encourage campers to explore, try new things, and push their boundaries, all the while learning valuable lessons about how to respect their selves, their camp community, and nature.

We Give Back to Our Communities

Schoolhouse of Wonder is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit and each year we award more than 100 scholarships to make camp possible for kids who would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience it. In addition, we offer discounted field trips to Title I Schools (those with 40% or more of the student population receiving free or reduced lunch).