Education Insight: Educational Summer Camps
Keep Your Child Learning All Summer Long
By Anna Bentley
Soon, the school year will be winding to a close, and children acrossthe country will start counting down the days to summer break. But that doesn’t have to mean a break from learning! Summer camps across metro Atlanta pair educational activities with recreational favorites, keeping kids active, engaged and learning all the way through August. If you’re interested in enrolling your child in a summer camp, the time to begin planning is now, since spots fill up well before the start of summer. Here are a few of the different types of camps available, along with tips for picking the right one for your child.
For pint-sized scientists, there are plenty of specialized science camps covering topics like video game development, computer programming, veterinary medicine, forensics, robotics, meteorology, chemistry, biology and even oceanography.
Club Scientific offers 42 week-long day camps across the metro Atlanta area for campers between the ages of 4 and 14.
“Our camps inspire interest in science and technology,” says Club Scientific co-founder Bob Hagan. “Our goal is for kids to have fun and get excited about science.”
Other science-based specialty camps include those offered by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), and Camp H2O at the Georgia Aquarium. CEISMC Summer P.E.A.K.S. (Programs for Enrichment and Accelerated Knowledge in STEM) camps are mostly for middle- and high-school students and focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) topics like robotics and computer programming. Camp H2O is geared toward younger children, giving them a behind-the-scenes look at the aquarium through animal encounters and lessons from caregivers.
Other educational camps combine classroom learning with outdoor recreational activities to help students improve educationally—while still having plenty of fun in the process.
Squirrel Hollow Camp at The Bedford School, a school for children with learning disabilities, pairs mornings of small-group tutoring with afternoon exploration of the school’s 45-acre Fairburn campus, including swimming, soccer and conquering a challenge course.
“Squirrel Hollow is designed to provide academic tutoring in a recreational setting,” says Betsy Box, director of The Bedford School. “Students who attend all four weeks make average gains of six to eight months in reading, math and written expression.”
At McGinnis Woods Country Day School in Alpharetta, campers can pair subject-specific academic camps in math, Spanish and even chess with the school’s Sunsational Summer Camp program. Campers also take an educational field trip each week; past camps have visite such fun locations as the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Center for Puppetry Arts and Cagle’s Family Farm.
Many camps, like High Meadows Camp in Roswell, emphasize the importance of children making personal connections with nature, especially in today’s digital world. Campers are encouraged to try new things and learn new skills.
“High Meadows offers campers a structured recreational program focusing on self-improvement, personal responsibility and environmental respect,” says Camp Director John Dovic. “We endeavor to provide an experience that keeps children of all ages engaged, excited and learning from preschool through eighth grade.”
New experiences for High Meadows campers could include archery, drama, woodworking or even dark room photography. Older campers can participate in the Knighthood Program, which rewards mastery of skills with ranks including page, squire, sentry and, finally, knight.
And at the Chattahoochee Nature Center’s Camp Kingfisher, 127 acres of woodlands, ponds and trails become the classroom for 11 weeks of themed camps. Campers learn about wetland habitats, the interconnectivity of the food chain and more, through hikes, exploration activities and animal presentations.
Summer camps hosted by the Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation Department also highlight the role that nature plays in learning. “Perhaps the most important aspect of summer camps at parks is that kids get to reconnect with nature,” says Nazanin Weck, the department’s resources and marketing coordinator. “Our camp staff makes sure to include plenty of outdoor activities exploring our parks and trails.”
The county has age-appropriate programs for junior adventure campers (ages 5 and 6) and adventure campers (ages 7 through 13) at more than a dozen locations across the county, plus special-interest morning camps for preschoolers at select locations.
Making Your Selection
After researching the different kinds of educational options available, you probably have an idea about the camps you’re interested in. But that’s only half of the equation, says Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association. Smith recommends taking a collaborative approach to choosing the right summer camp for your child. Talk with your child about his interests and expectations for summer camp, match them to your own, and then do your homework to select the best option.
How are counselors selected and trained? What is the camp’s counselor-to-camper ratio? How does the camp approach communication with parents? What are its emergency procedures? How well-maintained are its facilities? These are all questions parents should ask their top choices. Also, ask if the camp is accredited, and if not, why not. Accreditation is an entirely voluntary process that shows a commitment to your child’s safety and well-being, Smith says.
Lastly, get excited about camp—and make sure to share that excitement with your child. Talk about all the fun things he will do and the things he will learn.
“The greatest gift you can give your child is helping them become independent,” says Smith. “The camp experience is a great way to do that. … It’s a good way to grow that resilience and that independence, as well as provide them with enrichment opportunities.”
For More Information
Camp H2O at the Georgia Aquarium
Camp Kingfisher: Chattahoochee Nature Center
CEISMC: Georgia Institute of Technology
Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation
High Meadows Camp
McGinnis Woods Country Day School
See Newcomer's Summer Camps Directory here.