Nature Trailers: Then and Now

To educate Charleston area residents and visitors about the natural and cultural history of the South Carolina Lowcountry through collections, exhibitions, preservation, conservation, research and related programming. The mission of The Charleston Museum provides a clear message that education is the heart of what we do, and the Education Department takes this task seriously by providing a plethora of programming for children of all ages and their families. One very special way the Museum fulfills this mission is through our summer camp programs: Nature Trailers Camp and Museum Camp.

Nature Trailers Camp is one of the most popular programs held by the Museum each year, and its name is always a source of fascination. The name Nature Trailers has a long history at the Charleston Museum going back over 50 years and was first used as the moniker of a Museum club for youngsters, between the ages of 9 and 13, fascinated by the natural world.

Throughout the 1970s, Nature Trailers club met every Tuesday from 3:30 to 5:00 pm for an informal lecture and film on a myriad of topics in nature. However, once a month that Tuesday meeting was canceled in favor of a field trip to explore the natural treasures of the Lowcountry (the Museum did not have a wildlife preserve as it does today). An example of topics covered during Nature Trailers meetings include birds, wild flowers, dinosaurs, insects, life in a marsh, invertebrates, archaeology, shells, and indigenous peoples. Many of these topics are still incorporated into the Museum’s modern interpretation of Nature Trailers as a summer camp.

A letter from Director of Education, Daniel Johnson, giving details about an upcoming field trip for The Charleston Museum’s Nature Trailers Club in March 1976.


Members of the Museum’s Nature Trailers Club only had great things to say about their experiences. When asked to explain the purpose of the club, these anonymous young naturalists—members in 1975—declared:

“To learn about nature and to have fun. Why I come: Because I like it and sometimes my mother makes me.”

“Nature Trailers is a program where kids learn more about all things in nature such as the universe, plants, animals, the earth, ecology, history.”

While the Nature Trailers club of the past no longer exists, its spirit—and name—lives on through the summer camp offered during the month of June.

Nature Trailers Camp is designed for children between the ages of 5 and 11 who love all things nature. Camp runs from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, Monday through Friday, with a total of four sessions this summer: June 3 to 7, June 10 to 14, June 17 to 21, and June 24 to 28.

Camp is held at the Dill Sanctuary, the Museum’s 580-acre nature preserve located on James Island. Campers engage in lessons about animals, habitats, archaeology, and history as well as creating crafts and participating in activities highlighting these concepts. Campers will have the chance to get muddy everyday while going on nature walks and exploring a saltmarsh ecosystem where they catch fiddler crabs and periwinkle snails and get down and dirty in the pluff mud.

In addition to Nature Trailers Camp—a dream for those outdoorsy and nature-loving kiddos—The Museum also offers Museum Camp for history lovers between the ages of 6 and 11. Museum Camp runs from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, Monday through Friday and is offered in two sessions: July 29 to August 2 and August 5 to 9. Campers embark on a journey through the past discovering dinosaurs and fossils, learning the secrets of ancient civilizations, surviving natural disasters, and hearing tales of interesting characters from bygone ages. Each day includes lessons, crafts, activities, and a chance to go through the Museum. Museum Camp can be paired with STEAM Explorers Camp with Lowcountry Gifted Minds to create a full day camp experience.

The Charleston Museum offers a variety of summer camp options designed for inquisitive children to engage with the natural and cultural environment of the Lowcountry and beyond. Camp registration is open under the Events Tab on our website, but space is limited. If you are interested in more information on our camps, please contact Elise Reagan, Chief of Education, at 843-722-2996 ext. 236 or [email protected].

–Elise Reagan, Chief of Education