Our wildlife sanctuary immerses us in nature, integrates learning with life, and cultivates personal growth and stewardship of the natural world.
The purpose of the summer camp is to nurture in children and teens a respect for and sensitivity to the natural world through greater knowledge of self and nature. The campers develop this through direct interactions with nature, learning scientific information, and gaining experiences as part of a community.
The Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies believes that it is imperative to our society and our mission “toward stewardship of the natural world” to foster a community in which all members are recognized and celebrated for their unique identities, backgrounds, and experiences, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, or ability. We strive to foster an atmosphere of respect, empathy, and open communication, where campers, students, and staff alike know they are welcomed, respected, appreciated, and heard.
We embrace the actions needed to maintain a camp community and facility that will help us to achieve true equity and inclusion through continuous learning and growing, both as a community and individually, to help us all make sense of history, current events, and our ever-evolving world.
Message from Vini
For many years, this letter from former director Vini Schoene has greeted viewers on our website and we think it still captures exactly what our camp is about. Read on below!
Congratulations on finding us! With the large range of options out there, impressive displays by well-heeled traditional camps at camp fairs, and the overwhelming listings online, a small camp like ours can easily be overlooked. We hope this is the place you have been searching for.
One of my favorite stories from over the years comes from a moment when I was standing in the parking lot on the first day of a session, greeting a 12-year old girl and her father as they got out of the car. They had driven all the way from New Jersey to be there that day. The father unfolded himself from the driver’s seat, stood, stretched, and spoke to me frankly:
“I don’t understand why my daughter likes it here so much. There is nothing here.”
“Daddy!” she cried out, rolling her eyes a bit, “that is JUST THE POINT.”
That IS the point. We are a nature camp. You won’t find an archery range, basketball court, or horses here. You’ll find over 500 acres of wildlife sanctuary, full of interesting nooks and crannies to explore, as well as a healthy range of wildlife to observe, follow, and study. You’ll find yourself surrounded by high school and college students, mature and thoughtful beyond their years and so full of energy and unabashed enthusiasm that they’ll restore your faith in the next generation. Most have been campers at BCWS and can’t wait to share all they have learned.
As with any quality camp program, BCWS has a strong following. Alumni return to stroll over the ridges, listen to the stream, and recognize the evocative smells. They all have stories of what this program meant to them and how it informed their personal and professional choices.
This is a program for children and teens who are drawn to nature or just to the out of doors. It is for children who prefer smaller communities. It is not a nature therapy camp, but has proven to be successful for a wide range of learners, as often is true in situations where children are outside, and happen to get lots of fresh air and exercise.
The Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies (BCWS) is part of the Burgundy Farm Country Day School (BFCDS) in Alexandria, VA. In the fall and spring, BCWS hosts school groups and in the summer, it hosts the summer camp.
The summer camp was founded in 1963 as the Burgundy Wildlife Camp, with John Trott as director. The early sessions included one week at the Alexandria campus of Burgundy School and a second week at a facility beside the Cacapon River, WV, owned by the school president, Douglas Adams. Campers immediately preferred spending the entire two weeks in West Virginia, and the camp increased in popularity. At the same time, the BFCDS board was hoping to establish a mountain campus where students could spend time away from urban distractions, focusing, in the words of school director Don Mills, “on their relationship to the universe.”
In the winter of 1966, BFCDS found and purchased 467 acres of farmland near Capon Bridge, WV. The open valley is nestled on an eastern slope of Cooper Mountain and is surrounded mainly by ridges, so the property was named Cooper’s Cove Wildlife Sanctuary.
Because the tract was larger than the school could afford, a group of school parents created a landowner association and bought shares to support the purchase of land and construction of the first buildings. All the original construction was managed or carried out by parent volunteers. The camp moved to Cooper’s Cove in July 1967 and has continued operation ever since. BCWS summer camp has now passed through the hands of many directors and has evolved to incorporate research in best educational and conservation practices: it has also remained true to the traditions and tenets of a program beloved to generations of campers.
Thanks to the Cooper’s Cove Conservation Fund donations in the last decade, Cooper’s Cove Wildlife Sanctuary has grown to 611 acres.
In 2012 the Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies celebrated its 50th anniversary. To mark the moment, former campers and staff shared their thoughts on how their time at BCWS has impacted their lives. “Reflections – 50 Years of Honoring the Voice of the Wood Thrush” is a compilation of these thoughts and a testament to the rich past of BCWS.
Founded in 1963, we are one of the nation’s longest-running nature camps for children. The founding director, John Trott, was a teacher at the Burgundy Farm Country Day School who believed deeply in the value of immersing children in the natural world. The school and a group of committed parents purchased the land that is now Cooper’s Cove Wildlife Sanctuary in 1966.
Today, we offer summer camp programs for 8-10 year-olds, 11-15 year-olds and adults. We count among our strongest assets the beautiful wildlife sanctuary we call home, and our knowledgeable, imaginative, caring staff and traditions have stood the test of time. Alumni of this camp have gone on to become natural scientists, environmental policy experts, and outdoor educators, while others carry love and knowledge of nature into diverse lives.
Taking Care of Cooper’s Cove
We are committed conservationists who take our responsibility as stewards seriously. The Cooper’s Cove Conservation Fund (CCCF) was created to preserve the health, serenity, and safety of Cooper’s Cove Wildlife Sanctuary. The fund has allowed such actions as land acquisition, the purchase of conservation easements on nearby land, watershed protection, removal of invasive species, and encouraging native species.
Burgundy Farm Country Day School
The Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies is the mountain campus of Burgundy Farm Country Day School, a progressive school which prioritizes diversity and nature. Grades 1-8 attend three-day overnight programs in the fall and spring of each year. BCWS weaves nature, science, arts, and humanities activities into the school curriculum. The programs develop alongside the children, increasing their responsibilities, freedoms, and challenges with each year.