2008 Camp Trends
Camps Add New Sports, Study,
and Gender-Based Activities

by Kara Beitzer

Area camps this year plan to add activities that build both physical and mental skills. Several camps also will launch activities designed specifically for boys or girls.

Some of the new offerings at 30 camps responding to a MetroKids survey include challenge course upgrades, a book club for boys, a health club for girls, new sports activities, and skill-building programs for Web design, sewing and geography.

Focus on Academics
“We have always had traditional recreational and arts camps, but this year we will be adding more academic and study skills camps for older elementary and middle school students,” says Cass Winner, director of extended programs at Camp Montessori in Wilmington, DE.

“These camps, designed to help children better understand their individual learning styles and manage their challenges, reflect the growing interest of families in camps that are fun and useful,” she says.

Academic programs often focus on specific subjects taught in a fun, informative manner. Summer Adventures Camp in Hockessin, DE has a geography program in which students “visit” countries, the solar system and the sea. Kids learn about the world through these explorations and enjoy cuisines specific to each location, such as pasta in Italy or fish from the Pacific Ocean.

Germantown Academy Summer Programs in Fort Washington, PA plans a science camp that will include building a bird feeder and making movie special effects that involve chemistry and mechanics. (For example, campers can experiment with dry ice to create an eerie, fog-like effect.) The Academy is also adding new subjects to its educational camp.

Camp Men-O-Lan in Quakertown, PA, has designed a new outdoor education/nature study segment for its camp sessions, but also for use by schools, preschools, home school groups and retreat groups.

Academic programs are becoming so popular that E.S.I. Learning Camp, in Wilmington and Middletown, DE has added a second session of study skills this year for middle schoolers.

More Exercise
Several summer camps report that they are adding more sports and exercise options. For example, at the Hun School of Princeton Summer Programs, campers age 9-12 this year can opt to learn basic tennis.

Camp director Charles Kaesshaefer says Penn Charter Summer Camps in Philadelphia is expanding its sports camp to include basketball and junior tennis and has added more squash courts.

Sanford Camps in Hockessin, DE is adding a cross-country camp this year, and Tall Pines Day Camp in Williamstown, NJ is adding wall ball.

Camps are also beefing up or adding challenge courses. Camp Men-O-Lan has “added and improved elements in our challenge course, which already includes a climbing tower, zip line, giant swing, team-building elements and high ropes course,” says program director Karen Roberts.

YMCA Tockwogh Camp in Worton, MD recently added a challenge course, while Benchmark Summer Camp in Media, PA has added a climbing wall to its playground.

High ropes courses, wall climbing and other challenge activities offer physical training, but also challenge the mind. These courses are built so that kids can experience what it feels like to count only on themselves in certain situations — though with plenty of group encouragement.

Gender-based Activities
Several coed camps have recently created activities based on the different interests of boys and girls. A Tatnall Summer in Wilmington, DE is one of the many camps to add gender-based programs this year. “Our August post-camp week will have a gender-specific focus celebrating what it means to be a girl and what it means to be a boy,” says Michele A. Jennings, director of summer programs.

Camp Pecomet in Centreville, MD came up with five new programs for 2008. Two of them are gender-specific. That’s Not Camp! is “a video-playing camp for boys who would normally stay inside and play videos all summer,” says Richelle Darrell, summer camp director. “This camp allows them to play video games, but also will get them outside to introduce them to the camp world,” she says. Camp Pecomet also is adding Girls to Greatness, which Darrell says is “a camp where girls will learn about their spirituality and learn about nutrition, skin care, yoga and healthy bodies.”

Last year, Germantown Academy added a Summer Book Club for Boys. Boys read spy novels and sports books, then go on field trips related to the readings. Director of summer programs Katherine Adame says the boys last year went to the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. and saw a baseball game.

Adame says this year the Academy is adding a girls’ program, Girl Power. It is designed for middle schoolers to understand the “real girl” within themselves, beyond what the fashion and media-centered world is telling them. Activities will include public speaking, role-playing and
exercises to help girls gain self-confidence and build self-esteem. Guid--ance counselors from the Academy will conduct Girl Power.

For Boys, It’s the Machine
Another twist to gender-based programs is The Handwork Studio’s Machine Sewing Camp. It is offered at locations in Narberth, PA and at Rosemont College for kids in grades 4-10. Although boys and girls attend, some gender-specific projects are

“This camp will run from 9am-3pm and kids will be able to pick from approximately 20 patterns to make things like pajama bottoms, shorts, skirts, dresses, bags, accessories and room décor. We can accommodate boys with gender-specific projects as well,” says owner and president Laura Kelly.

She says all of the kids enjoy making stuffed animals; boys like to make stuffed sports balls, pillows, pajama pants and hats. “The boys actually like the machines,” says Kelly. “It is something mechanical, so they think it’s manly. We get a lot of boys coming through this program.”

Camps are adding other new programs your child might want to try, including a rollercoaster program and a Survivor week at Summer Adventures Camp and a ceramic jewelry program at Creative Express Summer Camps in Merchantville, NJ.

Ask your child to make a list of his favorite hobbies, sports and school subjects, and you’re likely to find camp programs to match.

Kara Beitzer is a MetroKids editorial assistant.