November 30, 2021

Youths get outdoors in Groton

Group learns team-building skills as part of program for youngsters

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Tracer Strange and Truth Snyder carry a branch taller than the two of them together over to a tree where they were building a fort. The activity was just one of a few those two and eight other kids participated in at Groton Memorial Park Monday afternoon as part of a Groton Youth Services program.

GROTON — Kaylee Harris, 12, walked about a foot from where she and a few other kids had been placing large sticks against a branch leaning against a tree. She grabbed a 3-foot branch and dragged it to her group.

She liked grabbing the larger branches and she liked building forts.

“Me and my brother had done this wilderness and survival camp where we learned to build forts,” she said Monday at Groton Memorial Park.

She got some help from teammate Noble Snyder, 11, who had a plan to cover the sticks with leaves — once he uncovered them from under a bit of snow — to make a roof.

“I like building forts a lot,” he said.

“I’m in Boy Scouts, so it’s like a hobby.”

Harris, Snyder and nine other kids were participating in an outdoor day with the Groton Youth Services Program Manager Nick Wagner.

How to participate

Next program: Karate class with Cayuga Lake Seido Karate
Open to: Kids in the Groton School District or people who have a relative living in Groton.
When: Wednesday, ages 7-9 from 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.; ages 10-14 from 3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Tritown Masonic Lodge, 301 Main St., Groton
To register: Go to reg.cce.cornell. edu/GWBF—250
Details: Email program manager Nick Wagner at

“I was hoping we’d have more snow,” Wagner said early Monday morning hours before the program. He had hoped to build snow forts, but forts made with sticks would have to do and it did.

The idea was to teach the kids team-building skills, Wagner said. It worked.

Wagner said the Youth Services Program, which is funded through Cornell Cooperative Extension, Tompkins County Youth Services and the village and town of Groton, is trying to get more kids involved in its programming. But Wagner, who is new to the position, also has to adapt to programming during a pandemic, which can limit the number of participants and means Wagner has to get creative.

The group can have only 10 kids for the indoor activities at the Tritown Masonic Lodge.

“They’ve been really gracious to allow us to use their facility,” he said.

Wagner said he is considering other programs, including cooking and dancing.

“I can’t dance,” Wagner said. “So I’m bringing in a professional. Things I can do, I do and if not, I bring in the pros.”

Several yards away from Harris and her group, Brooklan Strange,11, was leaning branches at least a foot taller than her and her teammates against a large tree.

“We did a base, kind of, with larger sticks and now we’re filling in with smaller sticks,” she said, going over to help Truth Snyder, 8 and Tracer Strange, 8, with a 4-foot branch they had dragged out of the woods.

Wagner said whoever had the best fort would get a prize, but in the end everyone got a candy cane. He said that after they were done building forts they would try to make a fire to roast hot dogs and have some hot chocolate.