Bartow-Pell camp offers outdoor adventures

Nancy Kheck, from City Island Gold, gave a presentation about bees and honey to youngsters at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum camp.
Community News Group / Jaime Williams

Adventure abounds during the summer at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.

For three weeks each summer, the BBMM Adventures camp gets kids outside and learning about their environment through a series of fun activities.

The camp has a focus on nature, hands on lessons and ‘do-it-yourself’ activities, said Bartow-Pell director Ellen Bruzelius.

Much of the programming revolves around the Children’s Garden built on the property five years ago, after which the camp was developed.

Campers from the Bronx and lower Westchester have unique opportunities, like learning about honey bees from a local beekeeper.

On July 27, the campers were visited by Dr. Nancy Kheck, who with her husband Dr. Patrick Gannon, produces City Island Gold honey.

She taught the kids about how the honey is produced and extracted, about the highly organized social structure of honey bees, and about how important the diminishing bee population is to agricultural production through the process of pollination.

“The bee keeping and gardening is symbiotic,” said Kheck. “It’s important for them to know how it all fits together.”

Kids are more open than adults to ideas about environmental conservation, said Bruzelius, and the camp’s nature focus through hiking, outdoor lessons and gardening is an opportunity to make the environment relevant to the kids.

“It’s a great way to make it real and not abstract,” she said.

And it doesn’t hurt that the kids get a real kick out of the lessons and the opportunities to get their hands dirty.

“I like picking stuff in the garden, it’s all fresh,” said camper Jonah Sherbansky, who added that he also loves the cooking lessons that use the produce they harvest.

At the end of the week, the campers host a mock farmers market for their parents, where they proudly show off the food they helped grow.

“Everyone has a smile on their face at the farmer’s market,” said Bruzelius.

This year, food grown in the Children’s Garden is being donated to the soup kitchen and food pantry at St. Peter’s in Westchester Square, where some members of the Bartow family are buried.

Other activities include a visit by a horse, a lesson about the Native American’s who lived in the area, and tours of the Mansion Museum. While a lot of the focus is on the outdoors, history also plays an important role in the programming, said Bruzelius.

“History is critical to develop a sense of our world,” she said.

And although some of the lessons could be taught in school, the non-academic context means kids are absorbing the information when they engage in the activities at camp.

“They’re learning it in a very relaxed environment and in a very hands on fashion,” said Bruzelius.

The camp was developed a few years ago after the building of the Children’s Garden, and is now a supplement to the school programming during the academic year. The museum has gotten great feedback from both kids and parents about the programming, who often decide to attend more than one of the week-long sessions.

“I think it’s been a really important addition to our offerings here,” said Bruzelius.

For more information about Bartow-Pell, visit

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at

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