School's Out Summer Camps: A Time to Have Fun and Learn

Posted by Corey Burdick on 7/3/2019 9:00:00 AM

It's summertime in Vermont and if you have kids in grades PreK-8, chances are that you might be looking for fun ways to keep them engaged until school resumes in late August. Hiking Mt. Philo then grabbing ice cream at Vermont Cookie Love? Learning basketball skills from local pros? Maybe exploring theatre and performance at the Vermont Comedy Club is of more interest. These are just a few of the options the School's Out summer camps began providing this June.

Not quite ready for your child(ren) to attend an overnight camp? Program Administrator Leigh Lamphere said, "These get as close to a real summer camp as we can and gives kids a camp like experience here at the schools."

There are a variety of camps for all ages and interests: Core Camp, TREKS, and sports and skills. TREKS are offered at different grade levels and involve day long adventures. Older kids can explore the performing arts, end of summer water world swimming spots such as Lake Elmore, Sandbar, and Waterbury Reservoir. Young Artists Unite participate in painting at Red Rocks, photography at Shelburne Farms, and visit Shelburne Craft School. Grow, Cook, Eat is offered at older and younger grade levels and involves harvesting food to cook from local farms. Younger students can also participate in animal and nature camps, learn first aid skills as well as safe hiking practices to prepare them for future adventures.

Registration for camps begins in late February and if parents/guardians get in before the deadline, all students get into the camps. After that timeframe passes, registration is based on available space. Lamphere noted that this year, the camps are completely full! With 100 more kids enrolled than last year. Typically, the camps have space for families who want to pick up a week here or there throughout the summer, but not this year. Some of the program's limitations include space and school bus capacity. At the moment, the camps are averaging close to 300 students per week.

In addition to getting out in nature and having fun, preventing summer learning regression is a key component of the CORE camps. Initially, Lamphere tried to make reading time a scheduled part of the day and in a program that offers so much choice, students weren't very amenable to the idea. Not wanting to scrap the reading component altogether, options were developed that allow for more creativity and choice. Students can now choose DIRT time (daily independent reading time), reading aloud plus a project, comic book making and reading to one another, and turning a book into a play. The initiaitve is currently in year two and yes, there are prizes involved! Students log their reading hours in a chart in order to be eligible for a "mystery prize" at the end of the year. Throughout the summer, prizes (thanks TD Bank!) include free tickets to the fair and Ben and Jerrys cone coupons among others.

Although hard numbers around outcomes haven't officially been tallied by Lamphere, the anecdotal evidence points to positive results! One 5th grade participant last year, for the first time in his life, didn't regress thanks to the summer reading program (according to the parent/guardian). In addition, a parent also reported that her daughter increased her reading level thanks to the initiative. She had been reading a few grades below her level, but now, not only is she able to read books she enjoys, but said she actually likes to read now!

The last day of summer camp is August 9, which gives Lamphere and his staff time to regroup and plan for the upcoming school year. Happy summer!


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