NEEEA Presents 2018 Educator Award to Larry Davis

New England Environmental Education Alliance presented their 2018 Non-formal Environmental Educator award to Pemi’s own, Larry Davis. For decades, hundreds of Pemi boys have enjoyed learning about our natural world and the environment under Larry’s direction as Head of Nature Programs. His commitment to teaching is second to none and has inspired generations to become more engaged with—and take greater responsibility for—their natural surroundings. Below is the citation for the award. 

Dr. Laurence ‘Larry’ Davis is Director of Nature Programs and Teaching at Camp Pemigewassett (“Pemi”) in Wentworth, NH. He has held this position since 1970 and, in 2019, he will be entering his 50th year. He is also Professor Emeritus of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New Haven where he taught Geosciences and Environmental Education for 27 years. His approach to teaching has always been “hands-on,” in the field with observation of nature being the foremost skill taught. This not only leads to good science but also provides enjoyment, understanding of the world we live in and, for many, a spiritual element. He has worked with thousands of campers and dozens of nature staff members at Camp Pemi, and hundreds of students at the University of New Haven. Many campers have ended up in environmental fields and many others from both camp and the University, in environmental education.

Larry is largely responsible for the exemplary quality of education in the nature program at Camp Pemigewassett, which is considered to be one of the best in the country and has been nominated for the New England ACA’s Eleanor P. Eells Award for Program Excellence. Larry fosters enthusiasm and creativity in the campers and counselors. Many of the children at this camp grow into life-long nature enthusiasts who go birding, press plants, and collect rocks during their school year as well. Some of them have gone on to pursue careers in ecology. Larry’s  devotion extends to training environmental professionals as well by running a week-long training program for nature educators every year.

On behalf of NEEEA, thank you, Larry,  for your dedication to the field of environmental education.

Larry offered the following note in response to the award. “This award really reflects the hard work, dedication, and great ideas of all those wonderful environmental educators who have worked in our program over the years, especially Deb Kure and Russ Brummer who both continue to teach our Nature Instructors Clinic. I am also grateful to the first head of the program, Clarence Dike, who handed me a healthy, going concern to build upon. Finally, a huge amount of credit goes to the Reed and Fauver families who, along with Directors Rob Grabill and Danny Kerr, have supported the development and expansion of ‘Pemi Nature’ since its inception in 1926 and my arrival at Pemi in 1970.”

Pemi thanks Larry for his absolute commitment to teaching and we look forward to celebrating his 50th summer at camp with a celebration on Sunday, August 18, 2019!

Good luck, long life, and joy!

Kenny Moore

Pemi 101 – The ‘What-is-it?’ Contest

The ‘What-is-it?’ Contest is a daily contest sponsored by the staff of the Nature Lodge that challenges campers and staff to identify a specific specimen from nature. The item could be a rock, plant, or butterfly, etc. and it is the job of the respondent to submit the best answer possible.

How to participate?

Located right in the center of the Nature Lodge, ‘What-is-it?’ occupies the end of a table. On the table are little slips of paper, small, golf-sized pencils, and a brilliant red birdhouse. Your task? Look at the day’s specimen and try to identify it. Write your name, cabin number, and your guess on the slip, fold it up, and place it inside the red birdhouse. At some unknown time after taps, the Nature staff retrieves all of the submissions and records the guesses.

Overnight, the Nature staff will replace the specimen with a new one and reveal the answer from the previous day on an index card. Participants are encouraged to return to check to see if their guess was accurate from the day before AND to guess what the new specimen is. This process repeats itself every day but Sunday, and the system gives participants immediate feedback; you will know if your guess was correct within 24 hours.

Points are awarded for participation (1 point), general answers (2-4 points), more specific-on the right path (4-5 points), and finally the ultimate correct answer (6-7 points). Participants who continue with the contest accrue points daily and, after each session, winners are announced for the highest score in each division. The prize? A Nature Award featuring a stunning framed collage of natural specimens that you take home. You also get your name listed in Bean Soup; infamy for the ages!

What-is-it Rules?

The rules are simple. You may use any resource (books, displays, etc) in the Nature Lodge except for the Nature Lodge staff. In fact, you may not ask anyone else for help and must find the answer on your own. The challenge of independent discovery is the essence of the contest.

History of the ‘What-is-it?’ Contest

Clarence Dike, Pemi’s first Head of Nature Programs, started the contest in the 1930’s. The first mention of the contest appears in the 1937 Bean Soup. Since then, it has become a staple of the Nature Program inspiring boys and staff to visit daily to participate in this challenging endeavor. Not only do you need to be consistent with your dedication to the contest, but you must have a penchant for curiosity and a willingness to find answers on your own, using resources right at your fingertips. Taking nature occupations will certainly help build your base of knowledge, but further research is necessary for the true die-hards.

2002 – Near Perfect Score – 295/300 – Upper Camper Alex Dyer

Over the years, there have been some very competitive contests and some remarkable scores. Larry Davis, Pemi’s Head of Nature Programs since 1970 remembers one year when the front-runner (Ethan Schafer!) stopped submitting answers with just a few days remaining and got beat out by a more persistent peer: a clear example illustrating the steady diligence needed to win. Since 2015, Associate Head of Nature Programs, Deb Kure has managed the contest. Here are a few other notable factoids.

1982 – Highest Camp wide Participation – 170 people, campers & staff participated in the Contest

1990 – All Star Staff Division – Johnstone brothers compete in a special Nature Lodge Staff Division

2008 – Very Junior Award – Victoria Malcolm continues the tradition of Staff Children participating in the contest.

2015 – Upper Andrew Kanovsky and Lower Will Ackerman earned Full-Season Perfect Scores: 210!


Campers – Are you ready for the 2018 ‘What-is-it?’ Contest?

Alumni – Do you have memories of participating in the ‘What-is-it?’ Contest?

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