Programs and Registration

Programs and Registration

Programming Update: 2022 Summer Camp registration is open. Register Here

About Our Programs

NOTE: All of our programming has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The past two years have been full of disruption, uncertainty, and unpredictability. We are slowly getting back to a state of stability, but it is an inconsistent, non-linear process. When the pandemic is “over,” we expect to resume a full, year-long schedule with a similar structure as before.

Taproot offers school year and summer programs for children ages 3 to 17. Age guidelines for each camp are flexible; we would be happy to discuss your child’s individual needs and abilities to find the right program for them. Contact us at info@taprootnatureexperience.org or call 319.325.0695.

Activities in all of the programs vary from day to day and are highly dependent on the season, weather, group size, and children’s interests, but have included: hiking, sledding, shelter building, atl-atl throwing, yoga and mindfulness practice, bow making, fishing, found nature object art, creek wading, fire making, gold panning, mushroom hunting, cloud watching and quiet observation, vegetable and tree planting, creek exploration, fairy house building, pond canoeing and swimming with life-vests, owl pellet dissection, animal tracking, sand engineering, treasure hunting, native species identification, maple tapping, snow building, campfire tending and cooking, outdoor games, and much more. Read more about our educational philosophy here.

We go outside in all but the harshest weather, as an important goal of the program is to help kids learn how to feel comfortable and safe in nature. We encourage parents to send their children with appropriate clothing, and help kids choose (or remember) to wear it.

If inclement weather prevents us from spending the day outdoors, we may go to the Natural History Museum, the Johnson County Historical Society Museum, the Office of the State Archaeologist, the rec center gymnasium, or the Water Treatment Facility, among other indoor locations. (During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are avoiding indoor locations as much as possible by canceling on days when inclement weather is strongly predicted.)

Learn about financial aid and donations here.

Week-Long Summer Programs

Parents may sign up their kids for any or all weeks of Taproot available.

The listed ages for each camp are helpful guidelines rather than strict rules. Feel free to contact Zac to discuss your child’s individual abilities and personality if they fall outside the recommended age range for a particular group.

Sprouts: Ages 3–5 (Sprouts Camp will not be offered in 2022 because of COVID-19)

When: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

Drop-off and Pick-Up Location: Upper City Park. Parents install and remove their Sprout’s car seat each day or leave a seat in the van for the duration of the week

Group size: Eight children with two adult Taproot teachers and a teenage Junior Leader

Tuition: $240/week per child, which includes a $100 reservation deposit at registration. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Sprouts is designed to give young children quality time outdoors in natural settings, with adult supervision and gentle, knowledgeable guidance. At the beginning of each day, we gather the kids for Circle Time, where the group will say hello, introduce the day’s activity to the kids, and invite them to share what’s on their minds. We often incorporate an active game, yoga, dancing, songs, poems, or stories to this time. After Circle Time, we’ll leave Happy Hollow Park in the Taproot Van and travel to our nature destination of the day. Sprouts Camp gives little ones a great introduction in learning to use their own voice and communicate effectively and kindly with others.

Seedlings: Half-Day Camp for Ages 5–8

When: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. from June 6 to August 19, 2022.
Drop-off and Pick-up Location: Upper City Park
Group size: Twelve children with two adult Taproot teachers and a teenage Junior Leader
Tuition: $240/week per child, which includes a $100 reservation deposit at registration. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Seedling Campers visit a variety of natural areas around Iowa City over the course of the camp week. Self-guided and loosely-structured play, as well as an atmosphere of Unconditional Positive Regard, form the foundation of the Seedling Camp experience. Gentle and experienced teachers provide safety supervision and are tuned in to the constant spontaneous lessons and learning opportunities that arise. Kids bring water and snacks to fuel their work, but there is no sit-down lunch time. This half-day camp is fun and fast-paced, and leaves the afternoons free for resting or other summer activities.

Cambium: All-Day Camp for Ages 5–8

When: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. from June 21, 2021 to August 2, 2021
Drop-off and Pick-Up Location: Happy Hollow Park unless otherwise arranged
Group size: Twelve children with two adult Taproot teachers and a teenage Junior Leader
Tuition: $395/week per child, which includes a $100 reservation deposit at registration. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Cambium Campers visit a variety of natural areas around Iowa City over the course of the camp week. Self-guided and loosely-structured play, as well as an atmosphere of Unconditional Positive Regard, form the foundation of the Cambium Camp experience. Gentle and experienced teachers provide safety supervision and are tuned in to the constant spontaneous lessons and learning opportunities that arise. Kids bring water, snacks, and a hearty lunch each day.

This full-day camp is a big job for young kids! Cambium Camp mixes periods of fast-paced fun with the rest and mindfulness necessary for kids to enjoy—and survive!—this strenuous, rewarding endeavor.

Payment and Refund Policies

Taproot requires a non-refundable deposit of $100 per camp week. This amount is included in the total tuition cost. Full payment for the session is due on the first day of your child’s camp.

After that, any refunds will be very limited. There will be no refunds for weather cancellations or if families choose to miss a day or need to miss days because of illness. If a large portion of a camp is cancelled because of COVID-19 or some other calamity, Zac will address refunds depending on the situation.

If you have extenuating circumstances that cause you to miss a camp, contact Zac at info@taprootnatureexperience.org or call 319.325.0695 to discuss your situation.

Saplings: All-Day Camp for Ages 8–12

When: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. from June 13 to August 19, 2022
Drop-off and Pick-Up Location: Upper City Park
Group size: Eighteen children with three adult Taproot teachers and a teenage Junior Leader
Tuition: $395/week per child, which includes a $100 reservation deposit at registration. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Sapling Camp is a rich, nature-filled experience for children, guided by excellent teachers and surrounded by friendly kids in an atmosphere of Unconditional Positive Regard. Saplings endeavor on a 5-day odyssey of nature, friendship, and adventure around Iowa City and further afield. Each day we visit one or two destinations—Turkey Creek, Harvest Preserve, Lon Drake’s Place, Kent Park, Scattergood Farm, and others—for fishing, swimming, archery, tree-climbing, running games, mindful observation, ephemeral art, forest yoga, and general nature love. Additionally, we will take one or two longer field trips each week to Maquoketa Caves, Backbone, or Wildcat Den State Parks (details TBD). Kids bring water, snacks, and a hearty lunch each day.

Taproot Leadership Camp: Ages 12–18

When: Evening of Friday, June 3 to noon Saturday, June 11
Drop-off and Pick-Up Location: Harvest Preserve Main Entrance
Group size: Eighteen kids and two adult Taproot teachers
Tuition: $1250 per child, which includes a $250 deposit at registration to reserve your child’s spot. This deposit is refundable until May 1; after that, it is only refundable in cases of illness, emergency or other circumstances outside your control.

Leadership Camp is an 8-day sleep away camp. Participants bring a tent and we camp at Harvest Preserve and go on daily field trips to various activities and events. Because it takes place in Iowa City, it is possible to make some custom arrangements if kids have scheduling conflicts or if they have difficulty staying away from home. Contact Zac if you have questions.

TLC Junior Leader Commitment
TLC’ers return for at least one week later in the summer to serve as a Junior Leader in a younger-kids’ camp. These weeks will be scheduled in mid-spring. This is a very important component of the Leadership Camp experience, where Junior Leaders get an intense, authentic opportunity to practice their leadership skills, and provide a tremendously valuable service to Taproot Campers and Teachers. TLC’ers who particularly enjoy being a Junior Leader can sign up for multiple weeks. There are no additional fees for this part of the TLC program.

During TLC, campers:

  • Take a full-day 1st Aid/CPR course and Red Cross Heartsaver certification
  • Learn principles of Nonviolent Communication with an emphasis on working with younger children
  • Gain courage, teamwork, and problem-solving skills on the UI High Adventure Challenge Course
  • Take a day-long canoe/kayak trip on the Cedar River
  • Plan and prepare group meals and shop for food, being mindful of the impact of their spending choices
  • Begin each day with guided relaxation, yoga, trail running, or mindfulness sessions

Semi-structured campfire discussions will delve into topics such as what it means to be a leader and a friend, navigating the pressures and dangers of social media, responding to peer pressure and bullying, making wise choices, and environmental sustainability for teenagers. True to the Taproot philosophy, the camp will provide participants with time to relax and enjoy nature in structured and unstructured ways in between training sessions.

Taproot Leadership Camp has consistently been a life-changing experience for the participants. TLC gives young leaders tools to stay confident and courageous in the face of the increasing challenges of life as they grow older. They further develop their core principles and get to know their authentic selves. They get practice in how to uphold high standards of integrity and commitment. These lead to greater effectiveness, peace, and happiness in their own lives, as well as helping them become excellent and trustworthy examples for their peers and young admirers.

We have high standards for TLC participants and teachers. It’s a program where Unconditional Positive Regard is taken seriously and people are expected to be excellent to each other at all times. Kids should come to TLC excited to exercise and strengthen their kindness and integrity and be their authentic true selves. Participants will certainly learn about leadership and integrity during their week; however, TLC is not a “boot camp” style program where kids get firm redirection to a “better” path. Kids need to come into the TLC program ready and eager to cooperate and make a positive contribution.

Financial Aid

We believe that every child deserves a chance to explore and learn from nature. If finances are a barrier for your child’s participation in Taproot, reach out to Zac to talk about financial assistance. We will work with you to come up with an affordable payment option. We will not turn a child away if their family cannot pay the tuition.

We are honored to receive regular donations that allow us to offer these scholarships. If you would like to make a donation to support Taproot’s mission, you can do so here. Donations are tax deductible. In addition, all proceeds from the sale of Taproot merchandise supports financial aid for Taproot kids.