With kids ready to burst through school doors on summer break, parents have many camp options from which to choose. While researching, they may discover that rather than inquiring “what will my child be doing,” it is just as important to ask “how will my child benefit from this experience?”
Averting a Sedentary Summer
One of the biggest challenges parents face is keeping kids active during hot, humid Florida summers. It can be much more enticing to simply plop in front of the TV, computer or game system and stay indoors. Tampa Metropolitan YMCA is setting out to provide a mix of physical and intellectual stimulation to keep kids moving this summer as part of a basic mission across all of its programming, says Ashley Sorensen, Executive Director of the Northwest Hillsborough YMCA and head of the Tampa YMCA Day Camp Cabinet.
“We focus on the importance of living an active lifestyle and implement a lot of activities that get all of the children running around and moving at the same time,” Sorensen says.
The Tampa Y offers a number of half-day and full-day camps across athletics, academics and other areas of interest open to both members and nonmembers. Kids who are not currently Y members can participate at a slightly higher “program” rate as opposed to the member “facility” rate, with camps ranging from $100 to $260 per week-long sessions.
The Tampa Y coordinates a variety of specialty sports camps which can be helpful for those who want to have fun staying active and can also be practical for athletes who play team sports and want to sharpen skills over the break. Bob Sierra Family YMCA offers two different basketball camps, one with Bob Marinak and another with Marc Jackson. Other sports camps available include gymnastics, football and triathlon.
Tampa Y’s latest athletic program is being piloted this summer at six locations. “Go for Green” is a new drowning prevention program launching this summer at South Tampa, Northwest Hillsborough, Bob Sierra, Camp Cristina, Campo and Plant City. All-day camp participants will be swim tested and those unable to pass the swim test will be eligible to receive swim instruction at no additional charge. The goal is to teach kids the skills required to pass the swim test.
“There’s so much water in our communities, and we want every child to know how to swim. This is one way to reach those non-swimmers and help them become better swimmers,” Sorensen says.
To register or learn more about this year’s summer camp offerings, go to www.tampaymca.org.
Learning about collaboration on set
When most parents think of team-building, they might picture a sports camp, but another creative option can be found in the Tampa Bay area’s most historic cinema, Tampa Theatre. For the past 11 summers, the theater has offered Film Camp led by James Welsh, assistant director of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, part of the USF College of Education.
“One of the things I really like about filmmaking as a collaborative activity is there are lots of ways to be successful,” Welsh says. “Kids who like to write stories might be writing scripts. For others with artistic interests or abilities, they might work on storyboards, set or costume design. There are kids who come specifically because they like to act.”
Participants in camps are from grades 3-12, with this year’s groups to be divided grades 3-7 and grades 8-12. Each week-long camp is open to 20 campers per session, with morning and afternoon half-day sessions available. At the end of each week-long camp, participants have collaborated to make their own 3-5 minute video film short.
“Filmmaking provides lots of opportunities for creative problem-solving. As you’re trying to make a film, tell a story in a short amount of time, you come up against a lot of creative problems and the only way to solve them is to work with other people,” Welsh says. “We want kids when they’re coming to camp to be open to listening to other people’s ideas and figuring out how ideas can fit together.”
Tampa Theatre offers Live Action Filmmaking Camp for the weeks of July 7, July 14 and July 21 and Stop-Motion Animation Filmmaking Camp the week of June 23. A new Stop-Motion Animation Model-Building Camp debuts this year for the week of June 16 and will show campers how to build puppets with a posable armature to be used for stop-motion animation filmmaking. Cost for any of the week-long sessions is $175 per camper.
“We want to make sure the kids have fun. Beyond that, our focus is really communication and collaboration, and learning to tell stories in different ways,” he says. “We believe those are very valuable and portable skills. If you can learn to communicate your ideas in a small group when you’re collaborating to create a film, that’s something you can take with you and use at school and in life in general.”
For more information about Tampa Theatre Film Camp or to register, visit www.tampatheatre.org.
Nurturing Self-Confidence, Independence
Summer camps can be an ideal setting for giving children their first real experience operating independently from parents. Shari Money who oversees the camp program for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida (GSWCF), says that some parents can be nervous about leaving their child, but that it can be one of her greatest learning experiences. For this reason, the Scouts offer an optional overnight to day camp participants to sample the camp experience.
“It’s a really good option to let girls know that they can be away from their parents for more than one night in a camp setting,” Money says.
The GSWCF hosts two resident summer camps with similar offerings but different environments. Camp Wildwood spans over 600 acres and draws through its popular horse programs, and Camp Scoutcrest, a much smaller lakefront camp in Odessa, provides residents many fun water activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, fishing, sailing, wakeboarding, waterskiing and tubing. Resident camp activities are available to those enrolled in GSWCF’s day camps, except participants return to the comfort of their home each night.
Money says that whether girls take part in the one-week resident camps or daycamps, girls can build self-confidence as they learn new skills and meet new people.
“Camp is a safe place where girls can be themselves and stretch their limits, and through those activities build their self-esteem,” she says. “Being in an all-girl environment, they’re gaining a little independence each day in a safe environment with positive role models and mentors all around them. That’s something you can’t put a price on, the confidence these girls gain at camp.”
The summer camp program is open to all girls in grades 1-12, including those not currently Girl Scouts who can pay the $15 membership to participate. This year, the GSWCF has lowered camp fees by $50.
“We want to make sure that more girls can experience camp and we want to have our camps at capacity,” she says. The group is also offering an early bird discount of 15 percent off camp fees if families register by April 15.
For more information about GSWCF summer camp offerings, call (813) 281-4475 or go to www.gswcf.org/camps/summer_camp.