Summer Camps

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Black Bear Camp - At Home in the Forest!

Overnight Camp (Ages 11-15)

Dates & Locations

July 08 - July 13, 2018
Arnot Forest
July 22 - July 27, 2018
Arnot Forest

Join us for a week of thriving and surviving.

A week of surviving, thriving and storing up tales to tell for when summer has passed. Together with your fellow adventurers you’ll build a camp from tools and skills learned – both modern and ancient. Our goal is to provide you with an experience of wilderness living that is equally challenging and rewarding. You will carry forward life-changing knowledge and abilities to help you find comfort in the wilderness wherever you go!

Suitable for all skill levels:

  • Building and sleeping in weather-proof shelters
  • Cooking meals on the fires you build
  • Crafting tools made from stone and wood
  • Learning how to forage edible plants safely
  • Making containers and rope from natural fibers
  • Sharpening knives and safely using sharp tools
  • Practice hunting with bows, atl-atls and traps
  • Playing music and telling stories of your adventures on fire-lit nights

*This program was made possible by a grant from the Tompkins County Tourism Program

Overnight Camp Parent Resources & Forms Page

Overnight Camp Overview and FAQ Page

† Tuition is based on a self-determined sliding scale. Funds received above the minimum go to our scholarship fund as a tax-deductible donation (you will receive a receipt at the end of the year).

  • 3PM Sunday - 3PM Friday
  • 6 days/5 nights, includes all meals and camping
  • $680-880
    per session

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Will my child be outside the whole time?​​

We are outside the vast majority of the time; however we do have access to several places to go “in”, including a tipi, a pavilion, and a heated building with bathrooms. Parents learn to dress their children for the weather, and children learn how to stay--or get--warm and dry. Our motto is, "There is no bad weather, only bad clothing." And remember:

Whether the weather is cold
Or whether the weather is hot
Whether the weather is fair
Or whether the weather is not
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not.

What is your philosophy around special needs and what accommodations are possible?

We are very open to working with campers who have special needs, and have had great learning experiences for students and staff alike. As each camper is an individual, we ask for communication with families in advance of registration in our programs to ensure that we are able to provide a great experience for your child at our camps.

How do you divide groups in summer camp?

Typically we divide campers into small groups with 2-3 instructors per group. We like to keep our groups small so that the projects and activities can be tailored to meet the groups' needs, interests, and abilities. That said, all the groups meet together in the morning for an opening circle, and often in the afternoon for choice activities or a big group activity. This way the campers can interact with other groups and other instructors as well.

Who are the instructors and what kind of training do they have?

Our instructors are seasoned outdoor educators who encourage each students’ respect for self, others and nature. They are all First Aid and CPR certified professionals, and look forward to being at overnight camps with your kids!

Read About Our Staff

What technology are campers allowed to bring and use?

In general, we encourage campers to come to camp without technology. At check in, we will collect cellphones, ipods, watches etc., and return them on Friday.

How often can campers communicate with their parents? How about sending mail or packages to campers?

Phone calls home are things we try to minimize to allow campers to really have “their” experience during the week. Some exceptions to this would be family emergencies and birthdays. All phone calls in or out are done via our main phone line. If mailing packages please do not include food or candy.

What if I need to update something in my forms?

Please contact our registrar to make any changes or updates in your Overnight Forms. Please email

Health and Safety

How do you ensure the health and safety of campers?

We have a fully trained medical professional onsite at all times, and an infirmary available as needed. In addition, all lead instructors have New York state required medical certifications.

If a camper has a medication, it will be checked-in and kept in the infirmary, being administered as needed. For exceptions such as epipens or if we will be away from our infirmary, instructors for each group will carry medications. In case of emergency, there are two hospitals within 30 minutes from camp.

What is the size of the camp? What are the staff-to-student ratios?

Our overnight camps are intended for a small group of 16 to 20 campers each week. Our staff to student ratio is 1:8 with a full-time onsite director and volunteers who offer additional instructor support.

What is the plan during adverse weather?

We love being outside, but in times of truly adverse weather we have a lodge, cabins and emergency vehicles ready.

Is swimming allowed?

Swimming is not permitted at our camps, though campers will have a chance to get wet to cool down in nearby streams during hot days.

Does my doctor need to use your Doctor-completed medical form or can they use their own form?

Please use our form to ensure that we have all of the information needed for our specific camp. You may use a separate immunization form as long as the doctor has signed the separate document.

My child takes a prescription medication, how should I package the medication to send to camp?

Medications must be sealed in their original containers and clearly labeled with the camper’s name. We cannot accept medications that are in pill boxes, baggies, or open containers. All containers must be labeled. Each medication must be listed in your Doctor Physical Form, or else we will not be able to administer it. This includes vitamins and supplements.

What happens if my doctor does not check each line of the Physicians Orders for Medications?

This page gives us permission to offer over the counter medications and many helpful first aid remedies to your child. As long as your doctor checks each box and signs this form, we will be able to use anything on this list. If you choose that you do not us to use something specific, you can leave it unchecked.

Are there any required vaccinations or tests to attend camp?

No, we do not require vaccinations or specific tests to attend camp. If you have chosen to not vaccinate your child, we require a letter signed by a parent or legal guardian stating you choose not to vaccinate your child.

Will my child be able to keep their medication in their sleeping area?

All medications, including vitamins, gummies, herbal supplements, as needed antihistamines, etc, must be kept in our infirmary. The only exception is inhalers and epi-pens. Your doctor must check “Yes” under Emergency Medications in the Physical Form for your camper to be able to self-administer and self-carry.

What are the most common mistakes with medical forms?

  • Failing to submit Doctor-signed Immunization records: This is required by the state. A parent submitted copy or list does not qualify.
  • Not including over-the-counter medications in the “Camper Medication and Supplement List”: Even though your Doctor may not usually dictate what vitamins, supplements, or OTC medications you give your children, New York State requires camps to have a prescription for any item administered to your child while at camp.
  • Not getting your Doctor’s signature on each page: All three pages must have written doctor’s orders and signature
  • Using an alternate form for the Physical and then not completing the other forms in this packet: There is no alternate form for the Physician orders and the Camper Medication and Supplement List
  • Not checking the box on each line in the Physical Orders for Medications Form. This allows us to offer many different first aid remedies as needed.

The “Doctor completed Medical Forms” require extra attention from you. Without these forms completed, your child’s spot in camp will not be held nor will you be able to drop off your child on Opening day. As they all require a Doctor’s signature, incomplete forms cannot be easily corrected.

Please review the forms as the Doctor completed them and do not leave your appointment until you are sure all sections are completed and signed on every line.

My child does not take a prescription medication, but does take vitamins and supplements, how do I include this information?

For non-prescription meds, vitamins, and supplements that your camper takes regularly, NY STATE REQUIRES A PHYSICIAN’S WRITTEN AUTHORIZATION AND APPROPRIATE DOSAGE, AS WELL AS WRITTEN PARENTAL PERMISSION. This is the purpose of the “Camper Medication and Supplement List” Form. Even though your Doctor may not usually dictate what vitamins, supplements, or OTC medications you give your children, New York State requires camps to have a prescription for any item administered to your child while at camp.

Per NY State Law, we cannot administer your camper her/his vitamins or supplements unless we have written doctor’s approval.

Food and Lodging

What are the accommodations for bathrooms and showers?

Bathrooms and showers are available in camp, and when we journey further away we will teach safe procedures for using “nature bathrooms”.

Where do campers sleep?

Campers will sleep in tents, under tarps or in primitive-built shelters. Sleeping groups will be separated by gender with instructors nearby at all times. We encourage campers to bring their own tent to share with others, and we also have a small supply of tents to loan. Campers who prefer to sleep under a tarp may also bring their own tarp supplies.

What dietary restrictions will you accommodate? Can campers bring their own food?

Our menus will accommodate vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free diets. Campers should not bring their own food except for medical dietary restrictions not covered in our accommodations.

What is the facility like?

Our overnight camps are located at Cornell University’s Arnot Forest in Van Etten, NY. A 20-acre campus with cabins and a lodge are surrounded by 4,000 acres of forestland, ponds, and streams. Campers are onsite throughout the week at this large natural area.

What will meals be like?

Food at camp will be nutritious, tasty, and using local ingredients whenever possible. We will have a cook on-site to prepare group sit-down meals, and on-the-go meals for in the field on days we venture further from camp, and also meals that involve campers in learning methods of outdoor cooking. Most meals will be eaten outdoors.

Program Logistics

Is there an opportunity to do attend two weeks of camp?

Yes, this year we will offer The Primitive Journey, which will take place from Sunday, July 8th – July 20th . Campers will attend either Bear Camp or Outpost Camp for the first week, and Fox Camp the second week. During the weekend between, Friday – Sunday, we will offer a Bridge Weekend, where campers can stay on site with supervision, meals and accommodated provided.

Registration Details

What scholarships are available?

Scholarship Information

At Primitive Pursuits we are committed to making our programs available to as many people as possible. To this end, we generate scholarships via our sliding-scale fee on a program-to-program basis. Any contributions made over the minimum of the sliding scale for all our programs are tax-deductible donations to our scholarship fund. Thus, scholarships are limited to the sum of these funds and are awarded based on equitable distribution.

We review donations the first week of each month, and make decisions regarding scholarship awards soon thereafter.

Recipients will be notified by email and given a timeframe within which to accept or decline the amount awarded and complete payment of the balance.

Additional Outside Sources for Scholarships:

Although we do our best to make sure that everyone can attend our programs, please also consider applying right away to the following supplemental financial assistance programs, to allow them time for processing your application:

  • Ithaca Youth Bureau ECHO Scholarship - This scholarship is through the Ithaca Youth Bureau and intended for youth in Tompkins County, at any time of year.
  • The Town of Danby offers grants to youth up to age 21 for camps and afterschool programs. Info & application: 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!

What to Know About Our Scholarships Before Applying:

  • The maximum scholarship we can supply for any program is outlined below by program type.
  • Larger scholarships are considered under extenuating circumstances, and on a case by case basis.
  • Scholarship applications must be submitted a minimum of 30 days before the program start date to ensure consideration. You may apply closer to the start date, but we cannot guarantee a response before the program begins.

Maximum Scholarship Amounts by Program:

  • After School, Homeschool and School Break programs: 50% of program cost up to $100.
  • Growing Wild Summer Camp: $50 per week for a maximum of 2 weeks of camp per child.
  • Summer Day Camp: $100 per week for a maximum of 2 weeks of camp per child.
  • Overnight Camp: $225 per week of overnight camp for a maximum of 2 weeks of camp.
  • Forest Preschool Trimester: $100 in scholarship for the first day/week, then $50 for each additional day/week (e.g., If you are registered for Mondays & Wednesdays, the maximum amount in scholarship would be $150)
  • Adult Workshops: 50% of program cost up to $100.
  • Wilderness Skills/Nature Mentoring: up to $300
  • Wilderness Year: up to $1000

How to Apply:

  • Create an Online Account Portal using a computer and Firefox or Chrome (not Safari or Explorer, not on a tablet or smartphone)
  • Sign up for your selected program(s) and pay a deposit (EXCEPT summer camps after May 1, email to arrange deposit payment thru Registrar).
  • Complete a separate scholarship application for EACH participant and EACH program. Epic Days are not eligible for scholarship funds.
  • (eg. Robin Bird for Base Camp starting 7/1/18, requesting $50; Jay Bird for Growing Wild Camp starting 7/1/18, requesting $25).
  • If you are applying for a scholarship for more than the maximum amount listed above, please email our office at with information about your circumstances.
What is your cancellation and refund policy?

Should you choose to change or cancel an enrollment for ANY reason, our policies are as follows:

Transfer or Refund requests must be made BY EMAIL to the Registrar, even if you have discussed changing your enrollment with another staff, such as a field educator. The effective date of all such requests is the date in which you email the registrar of your refund request.

Email with your full name, phone, the participant's name, the full program name(s), and the program start date(s).

When permitted, transfer of credit to a different program must be done by the Registrar and incurs a $15 admin processing fee per transfer.


1. If you cancel 60 or more days prior to the program starting date, you are entitled to a full refund, minus the deposit and any donation above the base rate of the sliding scale.

2. If you cancel between 30 and 60 days prior to the program starting date, Primitive Pursuits will retain half the program tuition, after the deposit and any donation above the base rate of the sliding scale.

3. If you cancel fewer than 30 days prior to the program starting date or after the program has begun, there will be no refunds.

SUMMER: Day Camps/Growing Wild

1. If you cancel before May 1st, choose

  • full credit transferable to another summer camp in 2018 with available space ($200 Growing Wild; $300 Day Camp) OR
  • partial refund (full fee minus non-refundable deposit and any donation above the base rate).
  • full credit transferable to another summer camp in 2018 with available space ($780 Overnight Camp) OR
  • partial refund (fee minus non-refundable deposit and any donation above the base rate = $530).

2. If you cancel between May 1 to June 1, choose:

  • partial credit transferable to another summer camp in 2018 with available space ($100 Growing Wild; $200 Day Camp; $390 Overnight Camp) OR
  • partial refund (50% of fee minus non-refundable deposit and any donation above the base rate).
  • partial credit transferable to another summer camp in 2018 with available space ($530) OR
  • partial refund (50% of fee minus non-refundable deposit and any donation above the base rate = $265).

3. After June 1, there are NO refunds or credit transfers.

SUMMER: Overnight Camps

1. If you cancel before April 1st, choose

  • full credit transferable to another summer camp in 2018 with available space ($780 Overnight Camp) OR
  • partial refund (fee minus non-refundable deposit and any donation above the base rate = $530).

2. If you cancel between April 1 to May 1, choose:

  • partial credit transferable to another summer camp in 2018 with available space ($530) OR
  • partial refund (50% of fee minus non-refundable deposit and any donation above the base rate = $265).

3. After May 1, there are NO refunds or credit transfers for Overnight Camps.

Travel and Logistics

What are the logistics for drop off and pickup days?

For our Sunday start-of-camp we ask that you arrive between 12:30p and 1:00p. For Friday pickup, we ask that you arrive at 11:00am to join our closing circle which begins at 11:15.

Getting to Camp: What travel options are available?

You can drive to camp, or we also have bus, train and airport pickups available (see below). Our camps are in Van Etten, NY – 4 hours away from New York City and Philadelphia, 2 hours from Rochester, 90 minutes from Syracuse, and 30 minutes south of Ithaca.

Airport/Train Pickup
We have airport shuttles from Syracuse and Ithaca. We require that all flights arrive no later than 11:30am. For return trips, we require flights scheduled no earlier than 2pm for Ithaca and 3pm for Syracuse. We will also pickup from the Syracuse Amtrak station, and require all trains to arrive no later than 11:30am, and leave no earlier 3pm on the return trip.

Travel to Ithaca by Bus
Please let us know if you are planning a bus arrival so our shuttle can bring you to camp. We require that all buses arrive no later than 12 noon to Ithaca. For return trips, we require buses scheduled no earlier than 1pm from Ithaca.

Greyhound Bus Lines
(800) 229-9424
Greyhound Lines, Inc. is the largest provider of intercity bus transportation, serving more than 2,300 destinations with 13,000 daily departures across North America.

Shortline Bus
(800) 631-8405
Shortline provides regional service within New York State, Long Island, and New Jersey, and into New York City at economical fares, with stops in downtown Ithaca.

Need a trail guide?

We’re happy to help you navigate. Give us a call at the office (607) 272-2292 ext. 195 or use the link below

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