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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

When Laura Tatum—the RanchLife Program Manager and Volunteer Coordinator for Rancho Mission Viejo—visited one of the community’s farms in the Sendero neighborhood with her young stepdaughter, Kylie, she was struck by something Kylie said about people needing to disconnect from their phones and enjoy the outdoors instead.

With that observation in mind, Tatum was encouraged to bring to life a new program aimed at teens and tweens called Ranch Life Camp, which brought kids out to Rancho Mission Viejo for various outdoor activities.

The pilot program this year took kids out on Friday trips in July and August once a week. Tatum wants to expand the camp into a weeklong program for next year, as opposed to one day a week.

Kids got to learn about ranching, sustainable agriculture, and other topics during the trips.

“They got to learn about composting techniques,” Tatum said. “They got to harvest food from the ground and taste it.”

The number of kids on the trips averaged 10 to 13, and it also included a visit to the horses on-site. The children also went on hikes, searched for wildlife using binoculars, and were reminded to not litter.

The last day of this year’s program finished up with a pool party. RMV partnered with YMCA to help facilitate operations and team building activities, such as games and sports activities, during field trips.

The kids had the option to attend all four weeks, or pick a particular topic or trip that seemed interesting. Ranch Life Camp was also intended to introduce kids to environmentalism, particularly as young people become more active in discussing climate change and related topics.

“They really enjoyed it,” Tatum said. “We would end the day with opportunities for open feedback from the kids. Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive.”

Comments provided by kids expressed how excited they were to meet new friends, and how the trips made for an adventurous summer.

“You get to learn, see, and experience amazing things that are just blocks away that you never would’ve noticed before,” said Ella, age 13.

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.

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