A nine-month school year leaves little time for kids to develop their passions outside of the classroom. A week of summer camp can help fill in that gap. But how many kids have a chance to play sports, cook or take a hike all in the same place?
A variety of Washington-area day camps offer activities for campers to discover abilities and interests they didn’t know they have.
Ramah Day Camp of Greater Washington, in Germantown, allows kids to take three electives per week in addition to swimming and activities like Israeli music and dance. Electives include candle-making, cooking, robotics and engineering.
“We want kids from any age to explore their interests and passions in a more in-depth way,” said Rabbi Rami Schwartzer, the Conservative day camp’s director,
Schwartzer said Ramah also offers 10 sports, which include both individual and team sports. The goal, he said, is to keep the games friendly but competitive enough so that campers with different levels of athletic ability all feel included.
“Part of the magic of camp is to try things you wouldn’t have thought of before,” he said. “We have kids who aren’t very competitive but have a chance to try skill building in different kinds of sports in a friendly environment.” Visit ramahdcdaycamp.org.
That same philosophy of “try everything” applies at Coppermine Fieldhouse — a Baltimore sports camp that offers both summer camps and year-round classes in soccer, lacrosse, baseball, football, gymnastics, dance, tennis and squash.
Alex Jacobs started Coppermine Fieldhouse in 2011 as a program that would offer multiple sports under one roof to give parents a single destination to drive their kids. Jacobs said this setup exposes kids to more sports than just their own.
“They might have come in for soccer or gymnastics, and then they want to try lacrosse,” he said. “We encourage kids under the age of 12 to try as many sports as possible, and then after that they can get more specialized.”
Coppermine Fieldhouse’s summer camps include activities in addition to competitive sports, such as sailing and nature exploration. The Kaleidoscope camp includes rock climbing and archery. Jacobs said many families send their kids to as many as nine different weekly camps each summer.
“Their child may have done Kaleidoscope camp and the kids know their coaches from adventure camps, so they’ll break out of their comfort zone and say, ‘I’m going to try that,’” he said. Visit copperminefieldhouse.com.
At Summer at Friends camp on the campus of Friends School of Baltimore, it is not uncommon for athletically minded campers to spend a week in drama camp after a week of football. Assistant Camp Director Steve Cusick said Summer at Friends offers 15 day camps for kids between the ages of 4 and 13, offered in one-week, two-week and four-week chunks. Offerings include literary-inspired cooking classes to Robots and Rockets, where the campers build models out of Legos.
“The camp experience is so great because campers can come in and try something they didn’t do during the school year,” Cusick said. “It’s learning without the kids realizing they’re learning. It’s very hands-on.”
Cusick was a camper at Friends starting at the age of 4. He remembers participating in the soccer camp before switching to Robots and Rockets. He fell in love with the camp so much that he never left, and is still working there at age 26.
In some cases it is the wisdom of the parents that keeps the kids coming back.
“Mom kind of twisted their arm into trying the camp and then they come back and keep doing different levels of it,” Cusick said. (fscamp.org)
Campers between the ages of 6 and 13 who attend the UMBC Day Camp at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County have the opportunity to practice skills including martial arts and tennis. Camp administrator Gary Wohlstetter said each day participants rotate activities, including dance, fitness and two swimming sessions.
“We try to expose the campers to new activities and experiences that in the community they were not able to be exposed to,” Wohlstetter said. “Someone who said, ‘Gee I didn’t know I liked dance’ ends up being there for multiple weeks.” Visit umbcretrievers.com/summerdaycamp