Blueberry Baby

I interviewed Lara, the owner of Blueberry Baby, about natural parenting.

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Speaking of camps

I wrote this article for the Ester Republic. If you’re looking for a camp option in Fairbanks, you’ll want to read this! Photos courtesy of Erica Carroll.


Gathering for morning circle on the final day of camp, a counselor asked the ring of 30 preschoolers, “How are you feeling this morning?” Their synced voices rang back through the tent village, “Gooooooood!” One howled a delayed, “Sleepy!”

“This is the last day of Camp Habitat,” the counselor continued, “and I’m going to see if, after four days, you can all remember the rules yourselves.”

“Keep your hands and feet to yourself!” one girl offered.

“Stay with the group!” said a boy.

 “Have fun!”

“Follow directions!”


“Respect all living things!” squeaked a small girl sitting in one of the instructor’s laps. The words echoed through the circle as other children repeated the final rule.

Nature camps are a popular summer choice for kids in Fairbanks, with Camp Habitat accepting preschoolers as young as four years old. The non-profit camp is partnered with the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Friends of Creamers Field, and the Alaska Division of Fish & Game. This summer, 235 Fairbanks children between four and eleven will be exploring nature under the guidance of a staff of 13.

 “Our main mission and goal in our curriculum for this age group is just literally to be outdoors and have fun,” said Erica Carroll, camp director. “We don’t care if they don’t know the name of a type of flower. We just want them to be able to respect and enjoy their environment and being outside.”

“They’re bright-eyed and asking a million questions,” said instructor Chris Asquith. “This is their first time seeing a lot of the animals at Creamer’s Field, so it’s just really great to get to experience the outdoors for the first time again.”

After singing the camp song, Asquith stood in the middle of the circle with a small black bag. He reached in and pulled out a puppet.

“It’s Harry the Hawk!” he said. “Harry the Hawk can be seen flying over Creamer’s Field, and he’s looking for something to eat. But if he’s here at Creamer’s Field all alone is he going to have anything to eat?”


“So what are some things a hawk might eat?” 

“Meat! A mouse!” the kids replied.

“Let’s see if we can find some food for Harry the Hawk.”

“I got meat!” the kids called.

The instructor reached into the bag again, and pulled out a second puppet. “It’s Sammy the squirrel! The hawk could eat Sammy the squirrel, couldn’t he?”

“I saw a squirrel at my grandma’s house!” a girl called.

 “Sammy the squirrel could live at Creamer’s Field, too, but what does the squirrel eat?” the instructor asked.


“He could eat acorns, but we don’t have any acorns here. He could eat some…”

“Spruce cones!”

“Spruce cones! So where do spruce cones come from?”

“From spruce trees!”

“So we need spruce trees here for the squirrels to eat, and we need squirrels here for the hawks to eat, and so to have Creamer’s Field we need all sorts of animals, and they make a community so that everybody has all the food that they need.”


While Camp Habitat helps younger children discover their natural environment, Alaska Conservation Camp teaches outdoor skills to youth between 11 and 16 years old. The camp focuses on fishing, camping, and hunting. Founded by the Alaska Division of Fish & Game, the immersion-based curriculum emphasizes firearm safety, marksmanship, wildlife management, survival, and ethics. By the end of the week-long sessions, the teens leave with their Hunter Education certification.

 “Rule number one is be safe, but rule two is have fun,” said Cathie Harms, assistant coordinator of the camp.

There are two levels of camp: basic and advanced. The youth transition from studying maps and compasses to learning how to use a GPS, from assembling spinning gear to fly fishing, from camping in tents to shelter building, and from firearm basics to a small game hunt. During the traditional overnight camping trip, a game dinner is cleaned and cooked by the campers.

“Studies are now showing that kids who spend time outdoors are happier, healthier, and smarter,” Harms said.

She explained the camp gets an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. “One father wrote, ‘Thanks a lot, I used to be able to take my kid out fishing, now I have to pick up garbage. I used to be able to sit on the couch on Saturday… now he wants to go fishing.’”

Whether learning outdoor skills in Alaska Conservation Camp, or exploring the natural environment in Camp Habitat, kids learn to respect nature. “A lot of Fairbanksians have a really, really close connection with the environment,” Carroll said. “My neighbor just collected all the rose petals to make rose petal jam. They want their children to carry on that tradition.”

Gathered in their circle, the instructors sang and danced along with the campers,

“Creamer’s Field’s a habitat

A very special habitat

It’s where the tallest grasses are

It’s where the geese and cranes are at

“It’s where we have Camp Habitat

“We hope that we can all come back

“Creamer’s Field’s a habitat that we depend on.”

“Habitat, habitat, have to have a habitat

“Habitat, habitat, have to have a habitat

“Habitat, habitat, have to have a habitat

“Have to have a habitat to carry on.”

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With the holidays right around the corner, you’re probably wondering what to give your young friends — nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, cousins – to make their winters a little brighter. Why not give them something to look forward to?

Summer camp is the perfect way to get kids outdoors and experiencing new, hands-on activities. Whether you choose a wilderness skills camp or one where the kids spend all day trying new sports, your little friend will by sure to remember this gift way longer than that plastic airplane you were thinking about getting.

I remember going to summer camp when I was 10. I spent the week walking the St. Bernard there during lunch time, and my favorite part was going on a horseback trail ride. There was also a climbing tower, high ropes course, all sorts of sports (soccer, biking, basketball), and other activities. We slept in little cabins and had campfires at night. What could be better? I want to go to a camp for adults!

Here is a very interesting article by author Richard Louv, titled “The Natural Gifts of Camp:”

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Get Fairbanks youth outdoors

Below is an audio interview with Alaska Conservation Camp coordinators, John Wyman and Cathie Harms. They tell us why they think educating youth about the outdoors is important. Definitely worth a listen!

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Teaching teachers how to teach

Last Friday and Saturday, Fairbanks teachers learned something new… how to teach their students about the outdoors.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game held a Project WILD / Alaska Wildlife Curriculum workshop for educators to introduce environmental education programs.

The course focused on wildlife survival in northern winters to help educate teachers to better connect children with the outdoors. I’m picturing a teacher telling his/her class, “Did you know that while you’re curled up in front of a woodstove at 40 below, making occasional trips to the kitchen, the Interior’s moose population is trying their best to conserve energy by browsing in the same place they did last year? You try surviving off of willow twigs all winter!”

Alaska Journal of Commerce fisheries reporter Molly Dischner took a similar course through the same program. “We actually got to put on outdoor gear and tromp around for the one I took despite below zero temps,” she wrote, “and it was pretty cool that they were encouraging teachers to still take their kids outside to learn about…shockingly, the outdoors!”

The course also offered 1 continuing education credit through the University of Alaska Anchorage for a $74 fee. Otherwise, the course was just $20 for materials.

This program is a great opportunity for Fairbanks teachers to become better educated so they can go back to their schools and educate the human population about wildlife population and conservation.

And for some humor, Rosalie says, “I’m a good browser!” I say, “That’s not browsing, that’s grazing.”


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Bounce ‘N Play

The Bounce ‘N Play is another fun family event. They have three bouncy houses and tons of imaginative toys and activities, from dressing up in butterfly costumes to making pizza. The event is located in the old Cold Spot Feeds building on the Old Steese Highway. It happens twice a week, Wednesdays from 10-12 (sadly I am in class at that time), and Saturdays 10-1pm. Now that it has gotten cold outside, we go just about every week and wish it happened more often! But at least here’s a chance for Fairbanks families to enjoy unstructured play time five hours a week.

Here’s a video of Amelia making pizza!

And Rosalie crawling for the first time ever!

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Now that Fairbanks has reached negative temperatures, I am always looking for something new to do with my girls. The Fairbanks’ Children’s Museum is a fun event that happens once a month. It is indoors in the winter and unlike normal museums, it allows children to use all of their senses in unstructured activities. From painting with shaving cream to rearranging magnets and building log cabins, this is a sure favorite for parents and kids. The one in Fairbanks does not yet have a permanent location, so it is known around here as the “Museum without Walls” since it moves around every month. If you’re in Fairbanks and looking for something to do with your kids indoors, stop by the Friends Community Church from 12-4 on Saturday, November 24.

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Here is an interview I did with Keane Richards, who grew up on the Kandik River.

Keane Richards Interview

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MJ Luntz Article

Here is the rest of the article about my little girl with Rett syndrome. It is amazing to hear about her interactions with animals and nature.

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A five-year-old girl zooms around the tanks, pausing every time a bright pink fish catches her eye. Her father swoops close behind, grasping for her hood. “MJ, MJ, slow down,” he says. She makes a dash for a group of yellow, blue, and green birds singing in their cages, her strong legs carrying her until she can press her face close to their fluttering wings.

“When we’re in Fairbanks, she sees the block buildings, she knows this is Petco,” her father, David Luntz of Delta Junction, said. “It doesn’t matter if we park at Home Depot or Lowes, she’s gonna run here. She knows the way, she’s done it before, just so she can see her birds.”

Maryjane Luntz is one of four known Alaskans affected with Rett syndrome, a developmental disorder that occurs almost exclusively in girls. The child’s development starts out as expected, progressing from crawling to walking and talking, but somewhere between six and 18 months, something goes drastically wrong.


I wrote an article on MJ, and was happy to discover that her family has three miniature horses, two horses, four chickens, a dog, a cat, fish, and they are hoping for a pig in the spring. The kindergartener’s school has ferrets and snakes, and she rides at an equine therapy center in Delta once a week. This is a little girl who loves nature and animals, and I am so happy to have met her.

If you want to read more, it’ll be in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner!

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