Liz Shirley: Environmental Education + Summer Camp
Our program coordinator, Liz Shirley describes what she does for work and play. Read on to learn more about Liz’s career as a camp professional, as well as her passion for environmental education.
We’re you into camping growing up?
I grew up going to summer camp as a Girl Scout. I started at age 5 and continue to be involved with scouting to this day, as an Adult volunteer. As a child my family also went on camping trips occasionally in Oklahoma and Arkansas, though my passion for the experience began as a teenager.
Any favorite memories?
There are a lot that come to mind, but certainly the most impactful was the road trip my Girl Scout troop took from Tulsa, OK to Minnesota, to go canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). We planned the whole trip, stopping along the way at museums and historical sites. Our guides led us through the wilderness for 5 days and I fell in love with the backcountry.
I also met these amazing college students, our guides, who had such a cool summer job! That trip changed my life. A few years later, after spending a summer as a camp counselor, I would return there to work as a guide, leading youth on the same routes I had explored as a teen.
A day in the life?
On-the-go! I love to travel, whether for business or pleasure, and am always looking for that next great adventure! I like to start my days with a healthy breakfast, then if I am up early enough, I like to spend some time reading. Weekdays, after a strong cup of coffee, I head to work at Sea Turtle Camp. Once there, my days in the off-season are filled with dreaming of next summer, as we dive into camp planning! At lunch time, I try to sneak in a quick hike or trail run.
What were you doing before joining Sea Turtle Camp?
I have 11 years of experience as a camp professional. Most recently, I was a Camp Director for the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast. I supervised the day-to-day operations of their residential and day camp summer programs. My days included giving advice to the admin team on program design, making sure the camp schedule ran smoothly, and speaking with parents about their child’s experience. I also always made time to get outside and interact with staff on a one-on-one basis. Oh, and I never missed an opportunity to lead a song at campfire.
Prior to that experience, I worked for two years as the Assistant Director for the AnBryce Foundation, a youth development organization based in the DC Metro area. During the summers, I supervised staff, aquatics and the backpacking program at Camp Dogwood Summer Academy – their residential, academic enrichment summer camp. Year-round I coordinated their Mentor Program and assisted with their Saturday academic enrichment program. Prior to those experiences, I taught environmental education for four years; spending my summers as a backcountry canoe, kayak and backpacking guide and working at residential summer camps across the country.
What do you like about Sea Turtle Camp?
I really like that Sea Turtle Camp combines my love for the outdoors and passion for inspiring others to change the world, through hands-on experiential education. As program coordinator, I get the opportunity to work with an amazing staff team to create a positive, caring environment where campers can learn, grow and experience the transformative nature of summer camp. I hope our campers and staff are empowered to use their Sea Turtle Camp experiences wherever they go.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love the outdoors, so I spend a lot of my free time outside. I like to head out, to spend time with family and friends hiking, camping, kayaking, biking and exploring new places. If at home, I like to relax by reading, knitting and cooking a big made-from-scratch meal! It’s a bonus if I have time to bake fresh, hot from the oven bread.
What is your favorite camp activity?
Wow, that is a hard question! I love being at camp and there are always so many great activities going on! If I have to pick, probably campfire is my favorite – I love the opportunity to pause and reflect on the camp experience. I also really enjoy the fun, hands-on activities!
One fun fact most people don’t know about you:
A goal of mine is to live in Antarctica at some point in my life, for at least few months, to get the full Antarctic experience! I love winter and Ann Bancroft, part of the first female team to cross Antarctica, is one of my role models. During my time in Minnesota, I had the opportunity to meet with her and get advice for the winter trips I was guiding that season for Wilderness Inquiry – the same trips she had led for them earlier in her career.