Volcano Erupts at Camp Quest West Southern California

camp quest volcano show wide shot

Sunday night, just like last year, I had the privilege to donate another science presentation for the kids at Camp Quest West, Southern California. They are now using a larger facility still in the Angeles National Forest where stately Ponderosa Pines tower over handsome, well maintained cabins. There is plenty of wildlife, and wow, bringing my show equipment in from my truck, I came face-to-face with a beautiful and unexpectedly large deer.

I usually do these shows for a fee for libraries, schools, clubs, and gem and mineral shows, about 50 to a hundred performances each year, but Camp Quest has now become the repeating highlight of the year for me. Last year the topic was dinosaurs, and this time it was volcanoes, but the awesome power that evening was erupting from the kids, not from the Earth.

Once again they seemed to enjoy the show, and once again their optimistic energy, their eager curiosity, and their clearly above-average ability to think critically made the evening’s interaction and the question-and-answer section both a challenge and a pleasure.

It’s remarkable to feel the cumulative effect of gathering 67 kids together who in their separate families are encouraged to learn about the world around them by looking at it with their own eyes, rather than merely passively listening to someone tell them about it. Yes, they listened attentively to what I told them, but there was a stronger sense of intention coming from that already nurtured eagerness to see for themselves. When I told them that we were closer to actual volcanoes than any other place I perform, dozens of cinder cones just a few miles down the mountain in the Mojave desert, several eyes sparked with that look that young people get when they’re making a promise to themselves: “I’ve gotta go see one.”

camp quest volcano show closeup

Because this audience is somewhat unique in their families’ attitudes toward science, I spoke at the end about science in general, saying that it is not just something that’s boring to some people and interesting to others. The bottom line in science, the whole point of it is to save lives. Regardless of their particular field, be it geology, paleontology, astronomy, chemistry, engineering, history, medical research, sociology, botany, even entomology, scientists contribute to the saving of lives. Mentioning “bug scientists” puzzled them as I had intended. I explained how learning about mosquitoes helped us to rein in one of the world’s greatest killers, malaria. All knowledge enriches all other knowledge. Looks of comprehension lit up around the room.

Ending the show by giving each camper a nice chunk of lava rock to keep clinched it. “Geologist” or even “volcanologist” was yet another possibility filed for future consideration in several of their minds.

The camp staff are, as always, highly professional, very skilled, dedicated, upbeat, and right on top of things. The kids are going to have a great week. I envy them. Please do whatever you can to support this worthy cause, a very real and very much needed asset for our society’s just-around-the-corner future.

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I was half afraid by the title of your article that we’ve just received the first, unequivocal proof of the Almighty™. Turns out it was just science, bitches! Sorry. Had to be said.

  • islandbrewer

    Funny how we never see Joe Klein making these sorts of presentations.

    • Michael

      Funny how you never see kids wanting to grow up to be Joe Klein.

      • John Kiel

        Dubl lol!!

    • anniewhoo

      I say this with all honesty: I don’t think this will ever get old.

    • onamission5

      Thank you for filling in whilst Richard was otherwise engaged.

    • John Kiel


  • Smiles

    What a perfect lesson…if only all teaching could be so perfectly timed, that reality would clearly demonstrate itself and an expert be around to explain why.

    Great Work!

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    What would it take to get you up to NorCal?

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      If you mean Camp Quest West NorCal, schedule it well in advance, because my busiest season is summer, and July is the busiest month. Some clients book me as much as a year ahead. Coordinate it with Camp Quest West SoCal so I can do that too. Pay for the round-trip gas, give me a cot to sleep on, and food. I have to eat like a horse or I lose weight. The rest would be gratis. I can bring one, two, or all three of the shows: Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Astronomy, although that might be too much “Richard” for the kids, like too much strong food. If you want more than one, it’s best to do one show a day so I can rest, because I throw myself completely into them.

      For outside of Camp Quest, each March I do Dinosaur and Volcano shows for the Mother Lode Gem and Mineral Society Show in Turlock, CA, and each April I do the same shows for the Santa Clara Gem and Mineral Society Show in San Jose, CA. You pay a small charge for general admission to the entire mineral shows. Once you’re in, my shows are free.

      My website, under construction: http://www.sciencetalks.com/

  • Guest

    You do the Santa Jose show? Never knew; haven’t been there in years. Next year it’s on my calendar.

    BTW, I hope someone had the resources/energy to make chocolate lava cake for the kids that night.

  • Karen

    You do the San Jose show? Haven’t been in years — but definitely on next year’s calendar.

    BTW, I hope someone had the resources/energy to make chocolate lava cake for the kids that night.

  • waybeyondsoccermom

    Thank you so much, Richard, for your work with the Camp Quest kids. As a CQ mom, I know CQ wouldn’t be as wonderful as it is without people like you involved with the program.

  • Atheistiana

    Very cool! Will you be going to Camp Quest NW by any chance? My son would be psyched to see you!

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      I’d love to, but sadly, Washington state would be beyond my range. I’d have to charge for gas, motels, and business lost during driving days when I’d otherwise have paying shows in the Los Angeles area during my busy season. All that cost might be a burden to Camp Quest, and I want to benefit them as much as I can.

      Once, I drove all the way to Salt Lake City in a day for half a dozen presentations over the weekend at a gem and mineral show there, and then drove all the way back in a day. That much fatigue while driving was unwise.

      • AskAnAtheistBecky

        When/if you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, we’d be happy to have you :) Especially given that we have several ACTIVE volcanos!

    • AskAnAtheistBecky

      CQNW will have some awesome programming this year, with staff including a marine biologist, a neurology major, bird specialists, several philosophy majors, a mathematician, several teachers, and returning staff from last year. Your son should get psyched for some engineering, outdoor survival skills, hominid evolution, and ornithology :)

      • Atheistiana

        Read this to my son and he did a dance around the room. He is psyched for the engineering, survival skills, and hominid evolution presentations. Every year in first his charter school and this last year, the Connections online academy, the anti-evolution kids made learning even the basics of evolution difficult as the teachers are afraid to push it for fear of complaining parents pounding down their doors, so to have that available in an environment that will enable and encourage learning will be a first for him (at age 13… isn’t that sad!?).
        Hubby and son are out with the supply list, filling in the blanks and getting shoes and clothing for him for camp (and the rest of the summer and beginning of school). He is soooo looking forward to this! I wish I were taking him to camp (it’s a 6-hour drive from our house) but I recently got a job with weird hours, so I’m homebound. Thank you for the info!

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I recently took https://class.coursera.org/geneticsevolution-002/class/index and loved it. Thinking back, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for an interested 13 year old. Maybe some of the math might need some background, but it’s not essential (binomial expansion e.g.).

  • cr0sh

    Therapist -and- science educator? You are doubly awesome!

  • EmpiricalPierce

    You’ve just made the future a better place to live. I applaud you, sir.

  • Art_Vandelay

    That’s really awesome. I’m hoping CQ New England comes back next year. I’d love to send my daughters and maybe even volunteer myself.

  • Karen Carter

    Our sons are there now. They both loved your dinosaur presentation last year and I’m sure they will spend this next year talking about volcanoes. Thank you for teaching our children and making it fun and memorable for them. You are appreciated. Camp Quest is building a brighter future.