MANCHESTER - The opening of registration for Hildene summer camps is a local harbinger of spring in The Shires of Vermont.

This year Education Director, Diane Newton, is especially excited because as she puts it, "This year, along with perennial favorites like "Bug Bonanza" and "Nets, Buckets and Boots," Hildene has added a new option for children entering 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade.

Equinox Preservation Trust Forest Steward and Instructor, Rick LaDue, will lead "Junior Ranger Camp," a week when young explorers discover the secrets of the forest, fields and streams of Vermont and where each day brings new adventure and excitement. Also new this year is "Always Artful" for children ages 9-10.

Young artists take inspiration from the beauty of Hildene's natural landscape during the month of August, honing their skills in the visual arts of painting, drawing, sculpting and craft making. The camp will be led by Tinmouth artist and art instructor, Bess Lewis.

Each summer Hildene offers a broad spectrum of camps appropriate for children from first to sixth grade, exploring areas as diverse as forest, field, farm, wetland, pond and river.

Whether the child's area of interest is agriculture, art, aquatic life or exploration of how local animals survive in the wild, they are sure to experience a wide variety of hands-on activities that are both educational and fun.

All the while each camper is encouraged to explore, experiment and make his or her own discoveries in a safe and friendly environment with the guidance of camp staff dedicated to fostering a child's love of learning. This summer's staff includes: Newton, LaDue, Forest Steward, Lewis, Tinmouth Artist and Instructor; and Londonderry small scale farmer, Mimi Wright.

Hildene camps are limited to 12 campers and are a week long.

All camps run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are held in the Lowerre Family Youth Education Building.

To give all prospective campers the opportunity to attend the camp of their choice, enrollment priority is given to children who have not previously attended a particular camp.

The typical registration fee for a Hildene camp is $185 for members and $205 for nonmembers.

Hildene summer camps fill rapidly. Hildene members are given the first opportunity to sign up before camp registration is opened up to the public. Please note:

The ever popular "Nets, Buckets and Boots" is full, but there is a waitlist.

For more information or to request a brochure, call Newton at 802.367.7965 or email dianenewton@hildene.org.

Camp schedules, fees, and printable registration forms are online at www.hildene.org.