Exploring Summer Camps
How To Find The Best Fit For Your Child
By Daniel Beauregard and Anna Bentley
Summer is still months away. But for parents who want to turn
Summer is still months away. But for parents who want to turnthose lazy summer days into exciting opportunities for learning and adventure for their children, the time to begin planning is now, since spots fill up well before the start of summer. With so many kinds of camps available today, there are several things parents need to consider before signing the form and packing the duffel bag.
Day Camp Versus Extended Stay Camp
Your first choice is to decide between day camp and overnight camp. “Camps truly give children some of their first opportunities to take on personal responsibility, to experience independence and to develop social and life skills in a uniquely nurturing environment,” says John Dovic, director of High Meadows Summer Day Camp. He added that High Meadows, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is “often described as a traditional overnight camp, but without spending the night.” “An outstanding camp,” Dovic says, “will help children develop their potential by exploring and celebrating their sense of self and in forming meaningful and respectful relationships with others, all in an environment of fun and adventure.”
Once you’ve decided which camping format is best for your child, the next step is deciding between a traditional camp, educational camp or a specialty camp that focuses on a particular pursuit, such as academics, dance or science. All offer important benefits; which type you choose depends on several factors, including your child’s temperament, interests, goals and educational needs.
Traditional Summer Camps
The words “summer camp” conjure visions of swimming, campfires and crafts. With today’s educational focus on test scores and technological proficiency, these activities are sometimes seen as mere “play.” But in actuality play is a child’s most important activity, and the skills and traits he or she develops are just as important in adult life as technical ones:
“Camp is so much more than child-care to fill in time between school grades. It gives children outstanding opportunities to help them become their best selves, to explore interests and unique activities and to be part of a community full of inspiration, growth and fun,” says Dovic, adding High Meadows focuses “on giving children an enriching and inspiring experience in the outdoors, led by exemplary counselors.”
And in today’s over-scheduled world, even youngsters need time to step away from the computer, have fun and enjoy being a kid.
High Meadows offers a traditional camp setting focused on the outdoors and experiential learning, in which campers learn about subjects through direct, hands-on experience gained over the course of a three-week session. High Meadows, which accepts rising kindergartners through rising ninth-graders, offers a range of activities including arts and crafts, Native American lore, swimming and more. (highmeadowscamp.org)
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, combines mornings of small-group tutoring with afternoon exploration of the school’s 46-acre Fairburn campus, including swimming, soccer and conquering the school’s challenge course.
“Squirrel Hollow is designed to provide academic tutoring in a recreational setting,” says Betsy Box, Bedford’s admissions director and director emeritus. “Students who attend all four weeks make average gains of six to eight months in reading, math and written expression.” (thebedfordschool.org)
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 visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Center for Puppetry Arts and Cagle’s Family Farm. (mcginniswoods.org)
For children with a particular interest or passion, specialty camps afford an opportunity to explore it in-depth.
For pint-sized scientists, there are plenty of specialized science camps covering topics like video game development, computer programming, robotics and biology. Science-based specialty camps in Atlanta 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. Georgia Tech’s programs are mostly for middle- and high-school students and focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) topics such as robotics, computer programming and modeling. Camp H2O, meanwhile, is geared toward giving first- to fifth-graders a behind-the-scenes look at the aquarium through animal encounters and lessons from caregivers.
Kids with other interests will find camps to suit them as well. The Young Chefs Academy (YCA) hosts Culinary Camps at three Atlanta locations, during which children make dishesfrom various cuisines. “Even at the age of 4 and 5, a lot of kids love to participate in the kitchen in some way, shape or form,” says YCA’s Jennifer Fox (youngchefsacademy.com). The Michael C. Carlos Museum, located on Emory University’s campus, hosts Camp Carlos. Elizabeth Hornor, the museum’s senior director of education, says the camp’s size (14 children per camp, paired with two counselors and one practicing artist) and mission are among the reasons it stands out. (carlos.emory.edu/camp)
“Our camps are closely connected to the exhibitions and collections at the Carlos,” she says. “It’s not just an art camp. It’s making art but also looking at art and looking at the cultures that created art.”
Camp Amid A Pandemic
With the COVID-19 pandemic still in effect, metro Atlanta’s summer camps are mostly remaining an in-person format and taking extra health and safety precautions, such as social distancing and requiring all to wear masks while indoors. Also, the American Camp Association (ACA) website (acacamps.org) provides resources and guidance for camps and parents on COVID-19 policies. It includes a list of questions parents should ask their camp director regarding their children’s camp COVID policies.
Dovic says he’s glad High Meadows, which was able to safely and successfully have in-person camps in 2020 and 2021, and other camps will stick with that format again this year. “It isessential for kids, especially now, to have opportunities to be outdoors, to interact with others face-to-face, to get physical exercise and to have enriching experiences that challenge them in ways not replicable on a screen,” he says.
“Even as information and recommendations regarding the pandemic change and emerge, we are confident that we, with the support of parents, can provide a safe, fun and enriching experience for our campers. Families are ready to return to the camp experience – our registration this year is stronger than it has ever been.” For parents worried about their children catching the virus, Kids Camps (kidscamps.com), a website that provides a list of camps in Georgia and other states, has a webpage devoted to online camps.
Making Your Selection
So how do you go about finding a camp? The ACA’s website is a great resource, with more than 3,600 accredited camps. After researching the different options available, it’s time to narrow down your choices. 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. Once you’ve found some promising choices, contact them directly with questions to determine if they meet your needs.
With such a large number and variety of camps available, it takes a little legwork to choose the right one, but it’s worth the effort. Your child will have fun while learning and making friends and memories for a lifetime— and you’ll get some summer afternoons to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Things to ask a prospective summer camp:
• Is the camp accredited?
• How are counselors trained? Are they certified? What is the average age?
• What is the background of the director and leadership staff?
• How does the camp address safety concerns? Is there adequate supervision at all times?
• What are the camp’s policies regarding campers’ cell phones and other electronic devices?
• Can the camp provide references?
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
Atlanta Summer Camp Guide
Before you know it summer will be here! Now is the time to explore your options for the right summer camp experience for your child—before all spots have been taken. Metro Atlanta offers a plethora of summer camps in a variety of formats. There are day camps, overnight/extended-stay camps, traditional, educational and specialty camps, just to name a few. The following profiles represent some of the unique camp programs you’ll find in metro Atlanta.
High Meadows Summer Camp
High Meadows Camp is a summer day camp in a relaxed and caring atmosphere set on 40 acres of a farm and woodland in Roswell. Children who are going into kindergarten through ninth grade have opportunities for self-discovery, while gaining confidence through age-appropriate activities. Activities include archery, animal encounters, woodworking, canoeing, crafts, swimming, drama, nature and sports.
Each day, 300 children attend camp in a structured recreational program focusing on self-improvement, personal responsibility and environmental respect. Camp sessions are three weeks long, offering campers the opportunity to develop strong relationships with their peers and with their staff role models and giving them time for projects and skill development. High Meadows Camp has been providing outstanding traditional outdoor experiences enriching lives in a caring, nurturing, child-centered setting since 1973. For more information, call 770-993- 7975 or visit highmeadowscamp.org.
Michael C. Carlos Museum
Camp Carlos 2022: See it! Think it! Make it! Camp Carlos is Back, in Person!
The Michael C. Carlos Museum welcomes children and families to look closely at works of art in the galleries, to think about the people who made them and how and why they did so, and then to make their own artworks in a variety of workshops, camps and special events.
This summer, the museum celebrates the 30th anniversary of Camp Carlos with a summer of in-person art-making. Inspired by the museum’s galleries and guided by practicing artists from around the city, children at Camp Carlos are encouraged to look closer, dig deeper and push their creativity further. For more information, visit carlos.emory.edu/camp or call 404-727-2163.
Squirrel Hollow Camp
Squirrel Hollow Camp, for children who need an academic boost in the summer, is held on the beautiful 46-acre campus of The Bedford School in Fairburn, 12 miles south of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. It offers two sessions of two weeks each. Rising first- through eighth-graders receive tutoring in reading, math and writing skills in the mornings; after lunch campers participate in recreational activities on the Challenge Course, soccer field, gym and outdoor pool. Campers make average gains in reading and math of one to two grade levels, build social skills and have fun! The day is 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. (aftercare available until 5 p.m.). There are discounts for registration by May 1 and for registering for both sessions.
For more information, visit thebedfordschool.org and click on Squirrel Hollow at the top of the homepage or call Betsy Box at 770-774-8001.
Walker Summer Programs
Over 500 campers agree—Walker Summer Programs are the best way to spend the summer! Located just 2 miles from the Marietta Square, Walker offers a diverse selection of academic, athletic and artistic opportunities in the metro Atlanta community. Choose from half-day or full-day options; early-morning drop-off and late pickup are also available. Rates are $150 for half-day camp to $350 for full-day camp/week. Invite your friends and take advantage of the early-bird registration discount of 5 percent before April 1. Use the code EB2022.
Walker is the top PK3-12th grade school open to all faiths in metro Atlanta. At Walker, students engage in advanced academics taught by dynamic faculty. With an average class size of 15 students, each child is challenged, supported and encouraged to explore all opportunities on its campus. One hundred percent of graduates are accepted to four-year colleges and universities. Walker students are excited and confident about college and beyond. For more information, call 770-427-2689 or visit thewalkerschool.org.
Whitefield Academy Summer Programs
Whitefield Academy Summer Programs exist to help children in their spiritual, physical, educational and mental growth in a loving, caring, safe and Christ-centered environment. Whitefield Summer Programs is a Christ-centered summer camp for rising PreK4 through 12th-graders offering all-day programs and specialty sports, arts and academic camps. Campers will be challenged to learn new skills, make new friends, see new places and develop their God-given gifts…all while having tons of FUN! For more information, visit whitefieldacademy.com/summer or call 678-305-1427.