What is Discovery Day Camp?

TNI’s Discovery Day Camp is a nature-based camp located in Godfrey, IL. This unique camp began in 1982 and has invited campers back each year since! Your camper will enjoy a week full of exploration, discovering birds, wildlife, insects, water features, and nature knowledge at The Nature Institute. We will explore the woods, prairies, and ponds at Olin Nature Preserve and will play in the streams and waterfalls at Mississippi Sanctuary.

Campers will have opportunities to gain STEM skills while playing on our natural playground which includes a Mud Kitchen, Geology Garden, Burrow, Eagle’s Nest, Climbing Wall and much more. Campers will learn through discovery and guided play and explore our natural resources. Expect to hear about the new adventures your camper experienced while outdoors.

2024 Camp Programs

On the chart to the right, look for the grade level your child just completed for the 2023- 2024 school year to find which camp weeks they are eligible to attend. Then you can find the camp descriptions below.

Registration opens for members (Family Level or higher) on Monday, March 4th and to non-members on Wednesday, March 6th.

Camp Scholarships are available for the 2024 Discovery Day Camp Season. Scholarships will be given on a first come basis at The Nature Institute’s discretion.


Cost: $170 members/$200 non-members for half day. $233.75/members/$275 non-members for full day. Payment plans are available.

PreK Camp is available as a half and full day camp. Half day camp is available for ages 3 – 5 and runs from 8:30 – 11:30 am. Full day camp is available for ages 4 – 5 and runs from 8:30 – 3. Snack is included in the cost. Campers must be able to independently use the restroom. Full day campers are awake and active all day (no nap time provided). Full day campers will also need to pack a lunch! Both full and half days camps run from Monday through Friday.

Get your hands dirty at this introductory nature camp for our younger preschool friends.

We offer 1/2 day camp for 3 – 5 year olds from 8:30 – 11:30 am.  All preschool campers must be able to use the restroom independently.

Discover what’s living in your own backyard! From tiny bugs to tremendous trees, explore the natural world around you.

We offer full day camp for 4 & 5 year olds from 8:30 am – 3 pm. All preschool campers must be able to use the restroom independently. Full day campers are awake and active all day (no nap time provided). 

Kindergarten & 1st Grade

Cost: $255/members, $300/non-members. Payment plans are available.

Kindergarten & 1st grade camps are full day, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 – 3. Campers will bring a lunch with them to camp. These camps are for children that have completed kindergarten or 1st grade for the 2023/2024 school year.

Can you navigate through the forest silently? Can you camouflage into your surroundings and attack without being seen? Learn about the ninjas of the animal kingdom.

Water you up to this summer? Explore the creeks, play water games, and get wet every day at camp.

Soar into the summer by learning about our local winged wildlife. It’s time to break out the binoculars and bug nets!

2nd & 3rd Grade

Cost: $255/members, $300/non-members. Payment plans are available.

2nd & 3rd grade camps are full day, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 – 3. Campers will bring a lunch with them to camp. These camps are for children that have completed 2nd or 3rd grade for the 2023/2024 school year.

Did you know that Pokémon are based off of real life animals? Study the creatures that make up our fictional friends and create your own Pokémon trading card.

Get the dirt on dirt! Conduct soil experiments and learn about creatures living on and around logs.

This week is our science sampler! Campers will dive into different scientific fields, from ornithology (birds) to dendrology (trees), you’re sure to learn something new.

4th & 5th Grade

Cost: $255/members, $300/non-members. Payment plans are available.

4th & 5th grade camps are full day (8:30am-3pm). Campers will bring a lunch with them to camp. See the description for more details. These camps are for children that have completed 4th or 5th grade for the 2023/2024 school year.

Geology knowledge is coming! Create your own crystals, crack open some geodes, and learn all about rocks.

Dig into a prehistoric adventure to unearth the past. From fossils to bones, learn about the ancient wonders that paleontologists and archaeologists study.

Middle School

Cost: $276.25/members, $325/non-members. Payment plans are available.

Middle School camps are full day (8:30am-3pm). Campers will bring a lunch with them to camp. Expeditions in Ecology is a 5 day camp (M – F). Call of the Wild is a 4 day camp. See the description for more details. These camps are for children that have completed 6th, 7th, or 8th grade for the 2023/2024 school year.

Go off grid this year at TNI! Campers will head to the water to try out stand up paddleboarding, climb the cliff faces of Pere Marquette, and end the week with an off-site camping experience. 

This is a 4 day camp, with an overnight on Thursday night. Pickup is 8:30 am on Friday. Drop off on Thursday morning and pickup on Friday morning are at Pere Marquette State Park. Parents are responsible for drop off and pick up from this off site location.

Embark on a scientific expedition to learn about the living creatures around us. Each day, campers will learn a new surveying skill, from banding and identifying birds to observing an electrofishing survey. This group will also be exploring a local cave to find out more about animal populations inhabiting it. This camp is perfect for the future naturalist and will include field trips and guest speakers to learn from the experts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our age groups correspond with the grade that your child has just completed. Your child would sign up for the K/1 group since they just completed 1st grade.

Families may register for 3 weeks of camp per child. 

We do not recommend signing up for the same topic for multiple weeks. Our camp lesson plans have specific activities that relate to the topic of the week, so they would be repeating many of the same activities.

Group sizes depend on the age of the campers. We follow limitations set forth by the American Camp Association (ACA).

Age Group Staff to Camper Ratio (ACA) TNI Staff to Camper Ratio TNI Max Group Size
PreK 1:6 1:5 10 campers per group.
K/1 1:8 1:5 10 campers per group.
2/3 1:8 1:7 14 campers per group.
4/5 1:10 1:8 16 campers per group.
Middle School 1:10 1:8 16 campers per group.

Yes! We are accredited with the American Camp Association. This rigorous accreditation process requires us to meet a large list of standards. We were recently reaccredited after our inspection in the summer of 2022. You can check out some of the specialized standards we meet by visiting ACA’s website and reading this article on how to choose a camp for your child.

YES! We are thrilled to be able to offer full scholarships to campers that would otherwise be unable to attend camp. These scholarships are offered due to the generosity of our donors. Please inquire about our scholarships at info@thenatureinsitute.org or by calling (618) 466-9930. Scholarships cover the cost of attending camp, but do not provide meals or transportation.

No, we do not provide lunch. We do not have facilities on site or certification to prepare meals. Please send your child with a packed lunch that does not require heating. We store lunches in our refrigerators after arrival.

Our camp is very popular and spots fill up quickly! We do have waitlists for camp on the weeks that fill up. You can add them to the waitlist on CampBrain. If spots open up, you will receive a call inquiring if you’d like to register for the open spot. Spots are first come, first served.

Camp is run by a Camp Director, Assistant Camp Director, and 11 summer camp staff. The Camp Director, Lauren Scull, runs our education programs year-round. Our Assistant Camp Director, Dave Schiber, is also a year round staff member. You can learn more about them on the Our Team page.

Summer camp staff are typically high school or college students that have an interest in the outdoors or are currently attending school for biology, environmental topics, or education. We also occasionally have school teachers join us for the summer.

Staff complete a week long training prior to camp and all hold current certifications in First Aid and CPR. They are trained on curriculum, child development, and group management, as well as outdoor content. Each camp group has a minimum of 2 staff members with them. Groups may also have an additional counselor if extra support is needed, as well as some middle and high school volunteers. All staff have background checks prior to the summer.

All of our camp registration is run through CampBrain. This website allows you to register your child, create a health profile, add your child to waitlists, and fill out required forms for camp.

The activities each day will be based on their theme, but they should plan to spend lots of time outside, complete age-appropriate activities, play games, and explore nature! Check out our Daily Schedule below (schedule is slightly different for 4th/5th late nights and Middle School overnights).

Sometimes! Please let us know prior to registration if your child needs any special accommodations and we’re happy to discuss what we’re able to provide to best assist you. 

We find that if your child is successful at school without an aide, and are in classrooms with neurotypical students, they will do wonderfully at camp! While our staff are pretty amazing, they are not certified Special Education teachers and do not typically have experience with this group. Please contact Lauren at lscull@thenatureinstitute.org if you have specific questions or to learn more about how we support neurodivergent campers.

Yes, provided that the following conditions are met:

  • The other child must also request that your child is in their group (full name listed).
  • Both children must be in the same age group.
  • Both children are registered for the same week.
  • You may only make 1 buddy request.

Please note that while we attempt to accommodate as many buddy requests as possible, it is not guaranteed. We also recommend that siblings are in separate groups. Camp is a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends and try new things!

Camper safety is of the highest priority for us! One of our camp rules is to make safe choices, and we remind campers that drinking water and taking breaks are an important part of that. During especially hot days, programming will be restructured for shorter hikes, more time in the creeks, water games, activities in the shade, and games that involve sitting components. 

If a camper begins to show signs of overheating, they will be directed immediately to an air conditioned space with cool rags to cool down. We will often provide lemonade in addition to our ice water coolers to make hydrating more appealing during these days!

We get wet! We jump in puddles, splash in mud, and enjoy cooling off. In all seriousness, if there is thunder or lightning, we have specific protocols in place to keep campers safe. We have special backpocket ideas for indoor activities if the opportunity arises!

We’re so glad you asked! Discovery Day Camp is a chance for kids to:

  • Foster an awareness and appreciation of the natural world.
  • Disconnect from screens.
  • Take on sensory experiences (Mud, slime, oobleck, and fake scat? Yes please!)
  • Learn resilience through problem solving and braving outdoor conditions.
  • Independently and collaboratively solve problems. (How can we construct this stick bridge to hold our weight?)
  • Develop interpersonal relationships and social skills.
  • Get involved in fun, age-appropriate activities outside!
  • Learn about nature, animals, plants, and all of the living things out in our ecosystems. 
  • BE A KID! Get messy, experiment, construct, create, and explore.

If you need more convincing, check out this article from the American Camp Association. You can also check out this interview regarding ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ from Berkely. 

We’re passionate about the work we do at camp, and we hope you’ll join us this summer!