You can never underestimate the value of learning about nature and what it has to offer while actually being outdoors.

Just ask the thousands of young children who have visited the Wilkes-Barre YMCA’s Camp Kresge in the White Haven area of Luzerne County.

With the help of the Y’s aptly-named Blue Sky program, youngsters from across portions of the northeastern part of the state are spending weeks at a time seeing for themselves the types of things they’re reading about in the classroom.

It’s the kind of program that PPL Electric Utilities has seen value in for years. PPL supported Blue Sky with $5,000 in 2016 and another $5,000 this year.

For many students, it’s a rare opportunity to leave the inner city and explore the environment.

They’re digging into lake water looking for invertebrates. They’re learning about the ecology of waterways and forests. They’re trying their skill at archery and orienteering. The students go home with new communication and leadership skills that they can put to use for the remainder of their education.

“It’s often a challenge for schools, particularly in urban areas, to get students out of the classroom and into an outdoor, hands-on learning environment,” said Alana Roberts, a PPL Electric Utilities Regional Affairs Director. “Not only does this program help schools accomplish that, but it also provides the types of real-life lessons that these kids will never forget. This program has provided value to many schools in PPL’s service territory.”

The programs are designed based on the curricula of the schools that send students, as well as state standards, said Mike McElhinney, the YMCA’s senior director of camping services.

Over the five years since the program was started, more than 10,000 school children have visited Camp Kresge for Blue Sky activities.

“They love it,” McElhinney said. “They’re not just sitting in a class. They’re learning through doing. We get a lot of great feedback. They love being outdoors and they love playing games.”

For more information on programming and sponsorship opportunities contact McElhinney at 570-970-5052 or mike.mcelhinney@wbymca.org.