Please contact us using the information provided if your questions are not addressed below.
Phone: 607-272-2292 ext. 261 (for messages after hours)
Office: 615 Willow Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850
Downloadable PDFs of Summer Camp FAQs:
Frequently Asked Questions
Epic Day fees are non-refundable/transferable.
Donations (payments above the base rate) are non-refundable.
1. If you cancel before May 1st, choose:
- full credit transferable to another summer camp in 2020 with available space OR
- partial refund: camp cost minus the non-refundable deposit and any donation above the base rate
- partial credit: camp cost minus the non-refundable deposit, transferable to another summer camp in 2020 with available space OR
- partial refund: 50% of the camp cost less the non-refundable deposit (and any donation above the base rate)
- partial credit: 50% of the camp cost less the non-refundable deposit, transferable to another summer camp in 2020 with available space
- there are NO refunds
If you see "waitlist" next to a program in your Account Portal, then that participant is on the waitlist. Our registration software will not accept payment for a waitlisted participant. If a spot opens, we call and email the next waitlisted person and include a deadline for reply and payment arranged through the office. Our field staff cannot accept payments for programs. We unfortunately have no way of predicting a participant’s chances of getting off the waitlist!
We are incredibly lucky to have such amazing teens contributing to our camp each summer. Teens interested in our Counselor-In-Training program must apply through our website. Teens will have a short phone interview with our Camp Program Coordinators and once accepted will receive information from our registrar on how to enroll in the CIT program. Please see our website for more information about our CIT program.
Many camps will break into smaller groups for the week. We usually organize these groups by age. If your camper would like to be in the same group as another participant - or if you would prefer your camper to be in a separate group from another child - please email us at least 7 days before camp starts. We do our best to accommodate these requests!
Our Registrar or Camp Director would be happy to provide support in your decision-making. In general, a camper less experienced with all-outdoor programs would be best served in a camp of generally younger youth. For example a newer/less experienced 7 year old might sign up for Forest Village Camp before deciding if they would like to try Forest Explorers Camp.
We do so many fun things in every camp - how is a camper to choose?!
We've created these thematic icons to help you get a flavor for each week:
[Fire] Outdoor skill building
[Hand print] Harvesting and crafting
[Running person] High level of physical activity
[Compass] Exploration and navigation
[Mask] Awareness and movement
[Arrowhead] Focused skills mastery
[Moon] Overnight option
[Ant] Team building and small group focus
These descriptions will also pop up when you hover your mouse over the icon.
Registration for camps is completed through our website, and must happen on a computer or laptop using Chrome or Firefox browsers. From the Course Catalog, add the camps you are interested in to your cart. Adding a camp to your cart simply saves it for you for reference when you do complete registration - at this stage it will not hold your spot, nor are you committing to that program yet. You will be able to see if a program is full once you add it to your cart. If a camp (or add-on like Epic Day) is Full, you will still have the chance to put your camper’s name on the waitlist (we do not accept payment for waitlisted participants). Once you click “Proceed to Checkout,” you will be prompted to complete the online registration process, which includes creating an Account (or logging in to an existing Account) in our online registration system.
We do request that children are registered in our system under ONE Account Holder (parent/guardian). While we acknowledge that this might be challenging for some families, this helps us stay organized and make sure we have all the information we need about your camper.
Note that your registration is not complete until you have received the confirmation email AND submitted your camper’s immunization records to our office.
Please contact us in the office if you are having difficulties with the registration process - we are happy to help!
Unfortunately we are not able to offer a discount for siblings. You are welcome to apply for a scholarship to assist with any financial need your family may have (see below).
At Primitive Pursuits we are committed to making our programs available to as many people as possible. To this end, we generate scholarship funds via our sliding-scale fee on a program-to-program basis. Our sliding scale is self-selected, so please pay wherever you feel your family lies. The low end of the sliding scale covers participation fees; any payments over this amount are tax-deductible donations to our scholarship fund. You can adjust the amount you “Pledge to Pay” for each program in [Step 3/6] Courses of the registration process.
When filing for taxes Primitive Pursuits is listed under “Cornell Cooperative Extension” - Tax ID #16-6072897.
We are committed to making our programs available to as many people as possible! This year we are offering a coupon in Ithaca's The Guide to Being Local - look for us in this wonderful local coupon book!
Scholarships are available to all our programs - the application can be found in your Account Portal. Check out our Scholarship page for more information. All deposits (even "non-refundable deposits") will be returned if you are unable to participate in a program for lack of a scholarship request being approved. If you are applying for a scholarship amount greater than our maximum indicated for a program, please email our office with any additional information. We can also usually work with families to develop payment plans. The sooner you contact us regarding any payment needs, the better!
Financial assistance may also be available from these local organizations:
- Ithaca Youth Bureau ECHO Scholarship - This scholarship is through the Ithaca Youth Bureau and intended for youth in Tompkins County participating in recreational activities, at any time of year - this includes summer camps! Please call the Ithaca Youth Bureau office for more information: 607-273-8364.
- The Town of Danby offers grants to youth up to age 21 for camps and afterschool programs. Info & application: firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Town Hall bulletin board.
- If you live outside of the Towns of Ithaca and Danby, inquire at your local town hall for possibilities of youth scholarships. Please let us know of any resources you find!
Beginning at age 8, youth will be able to participate in using a wood-carving knife under the careful supervision of our trained instructors and following our knife-safety and use protocols. Before handling knives, youth must demonstrate responsibility and readiness by completing a series of pre-knife use challenges.
We are a permitted summer camp with the NYS Department of Health. Over half of our instructors have completed First Aid and CPR/AED in compliance with NYS regulations. The majority of these instructors have completed Wilderness First Aid (WFA), a medical certification that is focused on treating conditions at least 30 minutes from medical care. Our medically trained staff travel with a first aid kit at all times with bandaids, ice packs, gauze, etc and can treat minor cuts, bruises and burns as well as help administer epi-pens and inhalers if needed. Instructors also receive medical information on each child from the registration form. Because we do not have a nurse onsite, we are not permitted to dispense over the counter medications and all medications brought to camp must have a doctor’s note.
As per NY State Health Department regulation, we require the most recent copy of all campers’ immunization records and keep this on file for the summer. As a camp operating under Cornell Cooperative Extension, the only exemptions from immunizations that we are allowed to accept are doctor-issued medical exemptions. We also collect immunization records from staff to keep on file for the summer. The Health Department mandates that we destroy these files after the summer and collect new records from families before camp starts the next summer. In this way, we keep our documents up-to-date.
Please submit your camper’s immunization records ASAP - your registration is not complete until these have been received by our office! Even if you anticipate your child will receive vaccinations between the time you register and the start of camp, please send us a current copy of their immunization record when you register, and an updated copy after any new vaccines have been administered.
Options for submitting:
- Drop off or mail to our office: 615 Willow Ave, Ithaca NY 14850, ATTN: Primitive Pursuits
- Email a legible copy to email@example.com (this can be a scanned or downloaded file or a readable photograph) - include the camper’s name in the subject, one camper per email
- Fax a copy to 607-272-7088, ATTN: Primitive Pursuits
Due to volume, we are only able to confirm receipt of immunization records received via email.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter!
All of our paperwork (including the lists of campers that our instructors carry with them) includes any notes about specific camper allergies and medications (taken from the camper health history that families fill out upon registration). Families are also encouraged to discuss this with the instructor team at the check-in table on Monday morning. Please see our medication policy for more information about bringing an EpiPen to camp.
While we currently do not have an overarching policy regarding foods prohibited at Day Camp, the safety of our campers is extremely important to us. You are more than welcome to contact our office to request certain foods be left at home the week your camper will be joining us. The Registrar will communicate this to all families of the other campers in your child’s program via email.
We do not provide or apply sunscreen or insect repellent. Parents should apply/supervise application of sunscreen and insect repellent prior to the camp day beginning. Campers who are capable of applying their own products may keep them in their backpacks and reapply as needed. Campers who are unable to manage and apply their own products may be assisted by an instructor at the parents request-- see the parent/guardian authorization section on the registration form.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather,” we say! We continue our programs when it rains, building a shelter or using a tarp if the rain is heavy. If thunder/lightning are detected or winds are extremely high we will move indoors for safety. Our indoor space at 4-H Acres is Kiwanis Hall. If these conditions are present at the beginning or end of the day please proceed to Kiwanis Hall to drop off or retrieve your camper.
If your child is sick, we ask that you keep them home so they can get well. If they have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, please keep them home until they are symptom free for a full 24 hours. If your child displays contagious symptoms during the camp day, we will call you to pick them up from camp.
As an all-outdoors camp, we encourage campers to learn the art of using the “nature bathroom”. Instructors are equipped with toilet paper, and other supplies if they are in an appropriate place for using nature as our bathroom. If they are not in an appropriate location or if the campers do not feel comfortable, 4-H Acres has bathroom facilities in two different buildings at the front of camp. At Ellis Hollow Community Center, we use the building for bathrooms when necessary. The Finger Lakes National Forest is our only location remote enough to not have bathroom facilities. In this case campers all learn the necessary skills to use the “nature bathroom”. In Growing Wild (ages 3-5), we also have a small potty at our nature classroom.
All medications (prescription and over-the-counter) must be in their original container and must be accompanied by a written note from the doctor, including the patient’s name, the dates of the program, and dosing information. Pharmacy labeling on the medication is not sufficient for this purpose as the medication, dosage, and/or regimen may have been changed since the pharmacy filled the prescription. Bring the medication and doctor's note to camp together in a clear plastic bag with your child's name on it.
Please make sure to have the doctor's note with you at check-in on Monday morning - medications will be checked in to a designated instructor on the first day of the program and carried by this instructor until needed by your child.
By NYS Health Department regulations, all medications must be self-administered and instructors must carry all medications, with the exception of EpiPens and Inhalers. Your child may not be permitted to come to the program if he or she is unable to self-administer required medication. If your child has an EpiPen, our medically trained staff will assist them if necessary. When camp is over on Friday, be sure to sign out your child's medication.
Ticks and tick-borne illness have become a fact of life in our area. The fact is, you can’t avoid ticks by not playing in the woods. Ticks also like lawns and woodchip-covered areas. “We’ve gotten more ticks on playgrounds than we have at Forest Preschool,” one of our parents told us. If you have pets that go outside, they may also bring ticks inside. Living in our area requires regular (at least once a day) full-body tick checks whenever the temperature is above freezing. At our programs, we instruct kids how to visually scan clothing and exposed skin and what to do with non-attached ticks. We role model the practice and make sure campers check at least twice during the camp day.As developmentally appropriate, our instructors may assist campers in this process. In our half-day Growing Wild Camp, we visually scan each child for ticks at least once every morning and remove any non-attached ticks we find. With your permission (granted in our registration form), we would also remove an embedded tick if one were found on exposed skin during camp. Please see our page What about ticks? for more information about Primitive Pursuits tick protocols and resources.
Primitive Pursuits is part of a world-wide network of nature connection schools resting on principles of and utilizing a set of practices known as The Core Routines to support people in connecting to nature, themselves and each other. Heavily influenced by the life and work of nature connection mentor Jon Young including the Wilderness Awareness School and 8 Shields Institute, these theories, methodologies and engaged routines are among the most important and relevant practices for generating healthy outcomes in our youth and our communities.
Research and observation provide much evidence that the disconnection from nature which has been on the increase for generations leads to individual and collective physical, emotional and psychological suffering. The Core Routines tap us into ancient and innate wisdom, drawing us to explore and learn about the natural world, develop wilderness savvy and survival skills, and deepen our relationship with the earth. Practicing together we grow in our understanding of ourselves and the kindredness of community and the living world. The resulting Deep Nature Connection promotes desirable personal attributes such as empathy, reverence, commitment to service, vitality, earth stewardship, joyfulness and a quiet awareness. Ultimately, we realize our place in the nature of things, how inextricable we are from the web of life, and determine to do our part to care for the earth and all beings. The healing and support proposed through Deep Nature Connection clearly has implications for individuals, communities, and present-day culture in its entirety.
We want all of our students to have a rich, rewarding, enjoyable experience at our programs, and these simple guidelines provide a safe and supportive environment for students and staff to make the most of their time together. We ask you to share and discuss these with your camper before the first day of our program. Instructors will also include a conversation about our Community Agreements with participants on the first day of camp:
Read our Community Agreements (ages 5 and up)
Read our Growing Wild Roles and Expectations (ages 3-5)
We keep our ratios very small considering the type of activities and our outdoor setting. In each small group with ages 6-14, we normally have between 10-12 campers with at least two instructors plus a teen counselor in training. In most circumstances, at least one of these instructors is a medically trained staff (medic). For our youngest campers, we increase our ratios to a small group of 8-10 with 2 instructors.
Full Day Camp at 4-H Acres
Early bird “Epic Day” (included in extended care)
Welcoming activities as everyone arrives to camp, check-in begins
Guided nature connection activities based on the specific camp, which may include large group choices, big epic games, small group activities, etc. Some examples include:
2:45pm - 3:00pm
Pick up, closing field games and activities
Epic Day program (Extended care)
Growing Wild Half Day
Arrival, welcome games and check-in
Opening Circle with songs, games, movement
Free play at their base camp
Snack with songs and stories
Guided nature connection activities: This could be a scavenger hunt, an adventure in the creek,
Lunch Time! After lunch we clean up and back up
Good Bye and Check-out
Our instructor staff participate in a concentrated staff training, which includes roles, policies and expectations, risk management and safety protocols, medical plan, and incident action planning. Our Lead Wilderness Instructors and many other instructors/staff additionally receive New York State approved Red Cross Wilderness and Remote First Aid and CPR/AED For Professional Rescuers training.
Campers will stay at 4-H Acres after the end of the usual camp day, spending the night in the woods with fellow campers and instructors. They will then stay on for a full day on Friday. Drop off your camper at the regular time on Thursday morning, 8:30-9:00 (Epic Day: 8-8:30). Pick-up on Friday will be at the usual camp time as well: 3:00-3:30 (Epic Day: 3:30-5).
Here is a list of what you need to bring to camp on Thursday morning:
- Lunch and snacks for the day as usual, plus lunch and snacks for Friday.
Pack Friday’s lunch separately, as we’ll be storing it overnight in a cooler.
- One gallon of drinking water
- Weather appropriate footwear and clothing for the day (rain poncho, etc.)
- Long sleeve layers for night time (bug protection)
- A bowl and eating utensil suitable for hot liquids (for instance a small metal mixing bowl) NO GLASS PLEASE
- forecast appropriate sleeping bag and/or thick blanket
- sleeping pad is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
- cotton sheet for mosquito protection - MOSQUITO NETTING IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
- Doctor approved medication with Doctor's note (if applicable)
And here are some optional items:
- Non-aerosol bug repellent
- Sun screen
- A sun hat
- Toothbrush and other personal care items
- Extra socks
- Flashlight or headlamp
Thursday night's dinner and Friday morning breakfast will be provided. Instructors will plan meals mindful of all dietary restrictions listed in the registration forms of the campers attending.
Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or ask the 4-H Acres Site Leader any questions!
We are happy to work with families to make accommodations for campers to participate in our camp. Unfortunately, because of staffing limitations, we are not able to provide 1:1 aides, however, we have had campers successfully participate in our camps with outside special assistance arranged by families. Please write as much as possible about your circumstances in your registration and our Camp Director will contact you directly if we have any questions. Additionally, please contact our office, email@example.com, (607)272-2292, if you have any concerns, questions or would like to discuss providing a 1:1 aide for your child.
All campers at day camp should bring their own lunch, snacks and water for the day. If participating in an overnight experience, there are meals provided depending on the program. Please see the specific program to learn which meals are included. On Friday of each week campers will have a small yet special treat provided, often included as a reward for completing a fun challenge. We take great care to ensure that all listed allergies are taken into consideration. If there are any concerns about food allergies, please speak to the Registrar or Camp Director at any time. We also recommend that you send a note or speak directly with the camper’s instructor at the time of check-in on the first day of each camp week.
We do not hunt or trap animals in our programs. We do teach hunting and trapping skills, including activities such as target practice with sticks and bows/arrows, animal tracking, and stalking skills. Participants should be aware that they would need a license to hunt or trap animals in New York State.
Some of our camps may include fishing. More commonly, we catch, and occasionally eat, crayfish or other invertebrates. We follow ethical practices and NYS fishing regulations. If you are under 16 you do not need a license to catch fish.
If you spend enough time in the woods, you will come across dead animals. At Primitive Pursuits, we don’t shy away from talking about cycles of life and death. If participants are curious about an animal that we find or that staff have brought in, we will examine it using contact precautions while being mindful of providing an alternate activity for campers who are not comfortable with that. With prior parental notification and permission, we do sometimes field dress animals or remove their hides. Again, this activity would be optional. Some of our camps utilize ethically obtained animal parts, such as hides, for crafting or tool-making. Whenever we interact with animals, alive or dead, we emphasize respect and gratitude.
Primitive Pursuits provides all carving knives and other tools needed for program use. Knives and knife-safety are introduced during Pathfinders Camps (8-10 year olds). Campers enrolled in Specialty Camps and teen Counselors-In-Training (CITs) may be allowed to bring fixed blade knives to camp at the instructor’s discretion. Parents/care-givers are required to check in knives at the check-in table upon arrival. Camper knives will be taken under the care of the instructor staff, given to the camper to use at appropriate times during program, and returned to the parent’s care at the end of the day. Please do not bring any other tools to camp such as hatchets, saws, etc.
Campers enrolled in Forest Archer may bring personal archery equipment (hand made and manufactured recurve and longbows only). Absolutely NO compound bows allowed.
For the health of each participant and to facilitate high quality programming, we provide a list of required items that each participant must bring each day. If you have any questions about these items, or are struggling to acquire certain items, please be in touch. The items to bring to camp are different for Growing Wild (ages 3-5) and Day Camps (ages 5-14). Please see below for links to these documents:
Summer Day Camps To-Bring List (ages 5-14)
Summer Growing Wild To-Bring List (ages 3-5)
If your child is late to be dropped off or picked up, you will be charged $20 per instance. By making payment for our programs you agree to this policy and agree to be charged accordingly.
We know that you value your camper’s time and adventures with us, and want to work with you to provide the best camp experience possible! Our camps are unique in that our programming occurs away from the drop off area. Due to this aspect of our programs, getting a child to the parking lot or getting them to their group during program time can require extra staff and/or a restructuring of that day’s planned activities. We understand that your summers are busy and everyone has a lot going on! Advance notice helps our instructors maintain the program’s structure with minimal disruption. Contact our office at least 24 hours in advance to let us know if you need to pick up your camper early or drop them off late. (If your request is for Monday, please let us know by 4pm the Friday before.) The more advance notice, the better!
Please understand that same day requests are more logistically complex for our field staff and may involve a small fee.
Most of our camps take place at 4-H Acres, approximately a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Ithaca. TCAT Route 41 is a Demand and Response zone that services 4-H Acres (https://tcatbus.com/route41/). You may arrange transportation to and from 4-H Acres by calling TCAT at 607-277-7433. We also strongly encourage carpooling! Please make sure that all adults involved in the carpool are listed as authorized pick-ups in each camper’s account.
New for Summer 2020: Primitive Pursuits will provide optional van transportation between the Cornell Cooperative Extension building and 4-H Acres! Limited space; only available specific weeks (see below). Cannot combine with Epic Day.
- Campers must be ages 8 and up, max 10 per week.
- Cost: $20; FREE for scholarship recipients!
- Drop-off time: 8:15-8:30am. Van leaves promptly from CCE at 8:30am!
- Pick-up time: 3:45-4:00pm
- Registration: This option is listed as an "Optional Add-On" in the Account Portal for the camps it applies to - check the box to register.
- Only available the following weeks: June 29-July 3; July 6-10; July 13-17; Aug 3-7; August 10-14; Aug 31- Sept 4
We also offer camps that meet at the Cornell Cooperative Extension building at 615 Willow Ave and travel to different natural areas around Ithaca. CCE is used as their drop-off and pick-up location.
Each morning when you arrive at camp you will be greeted by staff excited to meet your camper. At each location there will be a table to check-in. Please accompany your camper to the table. In our larger locations, such as 4H Acres, there may be signs showing where to check in based on the camp you signed up for. On Mondays, your camper will learn who their instructors are and what group they are in. We will also check to make sure they have all of their supplies for the day such as lunch, water and weather appropriate gear. The check-in staff will make sure your immunization records are on file, double check your approved pick up people and confirm whether or not you are on extended care. The check-in table is where you will also check in any medications and knives, and find our lost and found bin.
At check-out, our staff will confirm that all campers are being picked up by their approved adults on file. If you need to add anyone to the pick-up list fewer than 5 days before the program starts, you must email firstname.lastname@example.org or let the check-in/out team know, ideally at least one day before the pickup. (If you have entered a contact into your Account Portal fewer than 5 days before the program starts but do not email us, the staff on site at the program will NOT have been notified of the contact updates.)
YES! Our regular full day camp runs from 9:00am - 3:00pm, with flextime for all families from 8:30am-9:00am and from 3:00pm-3:30pm. Our “Epic Day” program allows families to drop their camper off at 8:00am and pick them up by 5:00pm each day. Epic Day is $40 per week and is available at 4H Acres and Ellis Hollow locations. During Epic Day, from 3:30-5:00pm each day, campers stay close to the pick-up area and enjoy nature based games, activities and free play. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer this option at other locations.
We do not offer extended care for Growing Wild (ages 3-5).
Every summer we strive to make the camp experience as good as it can be for campers and parents alike. We rely on feedback from you to keep our camps fun and engaging year after year! There are many ways to send us your feedback - through our online survey, by emailing us at the address above, or by filling out a Feedback Card at the check-in/out table at camp. Please note that email is the best way to communicate any urgent matters. Thank you for contributing to the success and growth of our programs!
All Summer Campers will receive one exclusive summer camp t-shirt! For camps at 4-H Acres, t-shirts will be distributed at the end of the day on Monday. Camps at other locations may distribute t-shirts on different days. Extra t-shirts may be purchased at the camp store.
Each week on Wednesday at 4-H Acres from 3-5 pm we will operate a small camp store offering a variety of useful summer camp items including personal knives, T-shirts, hats and other Primitive Pursuits swag.
Regarding knife purchases: We understand that it takes time to consider buying your child their first knife and don’t want you to find yourself “on the spot.” We do not sell knives to children who are under 8 years old and have not learned the knife safety guidelines through our programs. If you are interested in purchasing a knife for your child, YOU and your child will be given a 5-10 minute knife safety lesson at time of purchase. A parent must be present for all knife purchases. Please check in with us if you have any questions.
Our Tax Exempt ID is 16-6072897, and when filing for taxes Primitive Pursuits is listed under “Cornell Cooperative Extension.”