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Although it’s only a 10-minute drive from the Washougal Safeway, Kathy Marty’s home feels like a world away.
Nestled on five acres, complete with barn, dedicated crafts cottage, large open fields, a backyard stream, rope swings and a black lab named Molly, it is a child’s dream.
For the past seven years, Marty has offered summer camps on her property, to give children the opportunity for a unique experience.
“I just love teaching the kids new and creative things,” she said. “This is a very unique setting for a camp and it’s such a beautiful place. Now that my kids are grown, it is just me and my husband Tim here. Part of keeping the spirit of this place is through sharing it with others.”
Marty has worked as an artist, graphic designer, children’s art and science teacher and special education paraeducator for several years. She decided to offer camps for children after teaching at River HomeLink School in Camas, which has since been relocated to Battle Ground.
“I taught classes such as puppetry, world arts and crafts and an outer space adventure camp,” Marty said. “After I was done there, I knew I would miss it so decided to offer a three-week camp in the summer.”
That was in 2010. This summer, Marty is offering seven different camps, with themes ranging from Fun in the Sun to a Toy Inventor’s Workshop.
The groups are capped at 12 kids, and all of them are full.
“I like to keep the groups small because we can go a lot more in-depth that way,” she said. “In four days of camp, they become like a little family. We mix it up a lot, too.
“The kids have time to play, do projects, and have some downtime. Because it is a small group, if we have kids who can’t focus, they can run around outside.”
Marty gleans her camp ideas from the years spent teaching, and has 18 to 20 different themes she cycles through and updates when needed.
“I have kids who have been coming here for five years, so I like to keep it fresh and interesting,” she said. “I just love teaching them new, creative things and seeing where they take it. They really surprise me with what they can do.”
During a recent Outer Space Adventures camp, participants learned about how astronauts live in space, and had the opportunity to make their own spacesuit, backpack, mission patch and helmet. They also created a self-portrait, launched air rockets and ate astronaut ice cream.
Erin Connelly, 11, has been attending Camp Windy Hill for four years.
“The space one is definitely my favorite,” she said. “I really like that there is so much freedom here, plus we get to create really cool art projects.”
Will Jolley, 11, has been attending camps for three years.
“I like how open they are,” he said. “My favorite part is the art projects, but even if we are not working on a specific project, there is lots of opportunity to do different things that you enjoy.”
Tara Hansen, 11, is a counselor-in-training at Camp Windy Hill.
“I always knew I wanted to work here as a counselor when I was older,” she said. “I love it here. This is a really good place and the camps are always so much fun.”
Keira Stogin, 18 and a recent Washougal High School graduate, has been working as a camp counselor the past two years.
“I love how actively creative you need to be and use on-the-go thinking to problem-solve,” she said. “It is so much fun meeting all of the kids and seeing how excited they are. It can be hard to remember all of the names, though.”
Other than her two counselors, Marty is a one-woman show.
“I do it all, and it’s a lot of work at times, but I love it,” she said. “If I didn’t have a passion for this, I wouldn’t stay up until 1 a.m. preparing for camp the next day.”
She noted that a big buzzword these days is “project based learning.”
“Basically, it is teaching by making things, which I have always done,” she said. “I love helping the kids connect art to nature and science, because it is all tied together.”