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Feb./March 2007

Summer Camp Adventures
Where Learning Flourishes
by Avery Thibadeau and Amanda K. Brown

Epstein Summer Adventure Camp
During the school year, when evenings are spent in a flurry of homework assignments, balancing soccer practice with ballet lessons and getting dinner on the table, parents probably dream about relaxing summer nights, free of responsibility, as often as children do. However, long before the last day of school, plans for what the kids will do during those sunny summer days should already be in the works. If sending them to summer camp is the decision, planning should begin now.

The thought of summer camp probably brings to mind memories of long letters from home, swim tests in a freezing, spring-fed lake, and singing songs around a campfire. However, The Parent Trap version of camp represents only a fraction of what your children will experience this summer. Both overnight and day camps have reinvented themselves, expanding upon camp’s very definition while honing in on the many opportunities it can provide. Camp is not only a fun way to spend the hot summer days, it is a constructive way to help your kids explore their imaginations, develop skills and gain an educational edge.

Both day and overnight camp allow children time to pursue their own interests in individualized ways. Day camp offers a safe, nurturing environment for young children to experience being away from their parents for the first time, while at overnight camp, older children develop the ability to rely on themselves. As a parent, it is up to you to decide which type of camp experience will be best for your child at this particular stage in his or her growth.

Many camps welcome children of all ages, offering structured and unstructured activities filled with imagination and discovery for every age group. In addition to enjoying its more traditional activities, younger children at the Epstein Summer Adventure Camp attend imaginative programs with titles such as “Pirates and Mermaids” and “Cowboys and Cowgirls,” while older campers tap into digital photography, or build and design with LEGO products. These age-appropriate activities engage campers in ways that not only most appeal to them, but most stimulate and benefit them at their respective ages. As younger children enjoy dressing up in the world of make-believe, the older campers put their creative sides to use.

High Meadows Summer Day Camp
Many camps continue to offer traditional classes, teaching skills such as swimming or archery, but they also offer a safe and encouraging environment for the exploration of unusual activities. Specific theme days are held at High Meadows Summer Day Camp in Roswell for its campers to don costumes and discover experiences different from their own, whether it is the revelry of a medieval fair or daily life on the Oregon Trail. According to John Dovic, director of the camp, “These activities keep the campers engaged in an ‘unplugged’ atmosphere. We challenge campers to try new activities, form new relationships, and to continually seek personal enrichment.” Aside from the theme days, the diversified camp program at High Meadows includes activities such as nature studies, performing arts, woodworking, canoeing, Native American studies, and even animal care and pioneering.

The director of Strong Rock Camp and Retreat, James F. Himstedt believes that summer camp is about creating balance in life. “If you don’t appreciate art, or your health, or enjoy the intellectual side of things, you become unbalanced, and we want the campers to realize that,” he notes. A non-denominational Christian overnight camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Strong Rock’s activities range from the physical to the creative. Swimming and horseback riding are offered along with classes in sign language or ceramics. Campers pick four activities—at least one must be active and one creative or educational to balance their camp schedule. Although the traditional, fun-filled camp experience is represented at Strong Rock, the camp has also incorporated a structured, insightful and well-rounded approach into its very philosophy, and the campers benefit.

The sky’s the limit as far as what summer camps and activities are available these days, and with everything from art and music to science camps available, it may be hard to choose. One way to approach the choice is to determine whether camp could help your child develop interest in a hobby or school subject. Many camps explore subjects, academic or otherwise, from a different angle, or present them in innovative and engaging ways.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Fernbank Museum of Natural History offers camps each summer for children from kindergarten through the fifth grade which explore geology, biology and paleontology in the real world of science. From microscopic organisms to dinosaurs, topics are introduced with age-appropriate games and activities designed to interest and involve each of the campers. Campers learn without the fear and pressure of school performance.

While many children are their parents’ best helpers come dinner time, those attending the Young Chefs Academy’s Camp Can-I-Cook are their own head chefs. Children spend weekly sessions in the air-conditioned comfort of a kitchen, discovering unusual cuisines and the cooking techniques behind them. A good way to escape the summer heat, this camp not only helps children develop a lifelong joy but also teaches them skills they may not have the time to acquire during the school year.

It is important to research the camps you are considering to ensure that your children are in a well-supervised and safe environment. A good resource for this is the American Camp Association (ACA). Parents can be sure that camps accredited by the ACA have undergone a thorough review, from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. The ACA also helps member camps provide healthy, developmentally appropriate activities and learning experiences, and caring, competent role models.

Epstein Summer Adventure Camp
According to Dovic, camp serves a greater purpose than an alternative to day care or an outlet for simple summertime activity. “Campers begin to understand their roles and responsibilities as stewards of the earth and as global citizens—all of this in an atmosphere of fun, without the pressure of grades or tests.”

Whether they realize it at the time or not, after a summer of unusual, imaginative and skill-building experiences, children walk away from camp with much more than memories of roasting marshmallows around the campfire. Balancing a slate of engaging activities with a relaxed environment, camp is the ideal place for your children to truly grow.


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