Joppa Flats Summer Camp Program Descriptions & Hours
At Joppa Flats Summer Camp in Newburyport, our creative, inquiry-based programs give campers ages 6–11 the opportunity to learn more about their natural surroundings in a hands-on manner. Weekly field trips provide full ecosystem immersion for an enhanced camp experience.
Our older campers (ages 11–13) travel farther afield on daily nature excursions, getting into field ecology, outdoor skills and team building. Small group sizes for both camp programs ensure a welcoming, supportive environment.
- Full Day: 8:30 am–3 pm (hours vary for Nature Questers)
- After Camp Option: 3–5 pm (Explorers and Trekkers only)
One-week sessions feature local field trips, a guest naturalist visit, hands-on science, nature play, and creative projects. Each session has up to 26 children who are led by five counselors and the Camp Director, ensuring excellent counselor-to-camper ratios.
Session 1: River to Sea
Come explore the diverse and interconnected habitats of the seashore with us! Discover creatures big and small that call the salt marsh home, and get muddy digging for snails and clams. Roam the tidepools and uncover hidden hermit crabs while spying plovers and gulls through binoculars. Learn how Joppa staff takes care of our tidepool touch-tank creatures. We’ll cap it all off with an all-camp whale-watching voyage aboard the Captain’s Lady!
Session 2: Bugs Bonanza
Antennae, exoskeletons, and wings, oh my! Grab a net and a bug box—we’re headed to the field, forest, and pond in search of insects, arachnids, and invertebrates of all kinds. Roll over logs to find what’s alive under the leaf litter, and sweep a net through the tall meadow grass in search of dragonflies, butterflies, and spiders. Design your own “super-insect” and uncover larvae in a pond. We’ll finish off the week with a full-day field trip to the butterfly garden at York’s Wild Kingdom in York, Maine.
Session 3: Splash! Aquatic Adventures
Who lives in streams, vernal pools, and salt pannes? How do beavers build habitats, and where are the best hiding places to find frogs and turtles? This week we’ll get our feet wet exploring all kinds of local aquatic habitats. Trekkers will have the special opportunity to go for a paddle on the Ipswich River, and Explorers will track down wildlife of the Merrimack River aboard an exciting Yankee Clipper eco-cruise with expert naturalists.
Session 4: Nature Detectives
Mysteries of all kinds abound in the wild: Who made that burrow? What lives under logs and inside tree cavities? Who’s making all that noise in the forest canopy? And what animal left that scat? We'll use binoculars, magnifying glasses, trowels, microscopes, and more to investigate what's going on in local wilds such as Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and Maudslay State Park in Newburyport.
Session 5: Wild Survivors
Wild animals are masters of survival! Discover tricks and cool adaptations local wildlife use to stay alive in local wild places. Campers will also get the chance to learn some survival skills of their own, like building solar ovens and using compasses. Trekkers will venture out with their counselors on an orienteering challenge, while Explorers enjoy a storyteller visit to learn how American Indians of our region thrived in olden times. All campers will experience a special live wildlife visit!
Session 6: Take Flight
How do wings work? How do you tell a hawk from a falcon, or a chickadee from a nuthatch? Are bats really blind? This week, we’ll be on the lookout for things with wings. We’ll grab our binoculars and head to the field to explore these questions and seek out some local flying favorites, including insects! Special features include trips to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and a visit from a raptor rehabilitator with live birds of prey.
Session 7: Nature Nomads
This week is your passport to habitats of all kinds! We’ll carry our field science tools—microscopes, hand lenses, a team camera, soil corers, nets, and guides—to forest, field, and aquatic habitats! A hike up Mt. Agamenticus—a great trip for beginner mountain climbers—will be in store for our older Trekkers, while the Explorers enjoy a special wildlife visit.
Session 8: Hoist the Sales & Comb the Shore
Come learn about coastal habitats, how they sustain us, and how we can protect them! We’ll go catch fish in the marsh and meet tidepool creatures. Trekkers will discover how fishing dories were built here on the tidal Merrimack River at Lowell’s Boat Shop, and Explorers will visit Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm to learn about farming in the Great Marsh. Everyone will get an up-close look at lobsters aboard a lobster boat tour in Gloucester Harbor.
Get into nature, hands-on ecology, and outdoor adventure this summer! Join our traveling crew for awesome trips exploring nature from sea to summit. Experience marine biology and bird banding at Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore Island. Spy rare birds on Plum Island, and paddle a wildlife-filled lake. Learn outdoor skills like orienteering and fire-building with the support of your teammates.
This summer we’ll spend two nights camping out in tents at Mass Audubon’s Camp Wildwood in Rindge, NH! There, we’ll summit Mt. Monadnock together, go on a nocturnal prowl, and enjoy games, swimming, and a toasty campfire.
Optional After Camp Program
We offer an optional after camp program from 3 to 5 pm, allowing for later pickup for Trekkers and Explorers sessions (ages 6–11). Activities include art projects, nature inquiry and games, and quiet reflection time guided by Joppa Flats staff.
Families may sign their camper(s) up for after camp for the whole session, or for select days. To register your camper for certain days only, rather than a full week, you must call Joppa Flats Education Center at (978) 462-9998.
Overnight Camp at Wildwood
Is your child ready to try an overnight camp experience? Check out Mass Audubon’s Wildwood Camp, located in Rindge, NH! With outdoor exploration programs for boys and girls ages 9–17, Wildwood is the perfect next step for your day camp-lover.
What Others Are Saying . . .
“Every day my children came home with something new that they learned. I loved how focused on ecology and the sciences without being ‘preachy’ or like a school-type of atmosphere.”—2014 Camp Parent
“The field trips were excellent, the staff was wonderful and engaged, and the focus of the program was perfect...”—2014 Camp Parent