Northrop and Christodora

Starting Relationship between Northrop and Christodora 

     Northrop and Christodora both had their roots in the nineteenth century Settlement House movement.  Christodora was founded in 1898, and Northrop in 1923.  Northrop has always been the operator of a summer camp in Mt. Washington, MA, while Christodora has served New York City residents in various ways.  In 1981, Christodora opened the Manice Camp in Florida, MA.  Like Northrop Camp, Manice sought to let underprivileged New York City school children experience nature.  Both camps were small and personal, with Northrop hosting 20 children at a time, and Manice 40.  The Manice program put an emphasis on wilderness leadership training and survival in the woods, but Northrop has leaned more toward careful fieldwork and serious, but low tech, scientific observation and research.

At least two people have been involved in a major way with both organizations.  Norval Soleyn was a camper at Northrop in 1974, and an aide 1978 and 1979.  He joined the Northrop board in 1999, and served as president of the board from 2001 to 2008.  Earlier, he had been a counselor at the Manice Camp.  Dawn Chávez was a Northrop camper in 1987, and an aide in 1989 and 1990.  She served on the Northrop board from 1998 to 2002, and rejoined the board in 2008, serving as president from 2009 to 2010.  Before that, Dawn had served as the director of the Manice Camp.

     In 2009, Dawn told the board about a new program that Christodora had recently started, called the Summer Ecology Program, which met for two weeks every summer at Great Mountain Forest, in the northwest corner of Connecticut, about 25 miles from Northrop Camp.  A small group of NYC high school students spent that time living in cabins, eating at a common table in the sprawling main house, going on nature walks, and recording their observations in journals, while planning and carrying out a simple research project. 

Dawn suggested that Northrop team up with Christodora to continue and expand this program, which reminded her so much of Northrop Camp.  At the end of her email, she included a link to some photos of the 2009 SEP, including one of a camper proudly holding a frog.  “Look familiar?” she asked. That photo did indeed look familiar, and the board enthusiastically adopted Dawn’s proposal. This was the beginning of a constructive relationship with Christodora.

Read about our activities together starting in 2010.

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