Good Camps Bad CampsFor the third year now our daughter will spend several summer weeks in the same YMCA facility that she attends during her school year. This “daycare” camp doesn’t really have specialization even though every week has an overall theme. It’s a good quality camp – once a week children go swimming, there is also a cooking Wednesday, a field trip Thursday, and a special visit Friday (a magician, a bouncing house, etc.). Working parents can be certain that their children are cared for, entertained, and given a lot of free time to play together or on their own.
Last year we decided to try something new and signed her up for a chess camp in a different YMCA location. That “specialized” camp was a disaster! It was extremely disorganized, students spent entire days sitting in a small grassy area between two buildings, and a chess class was only 2 hours a day or less (also conducted outside). We left very negative feedback and advised everyone we knew not to sign up their kids for any camp offered by this facility.
This year we decided to try the camp that several parents spoke highly about – Camp Galileo:
Good Camp Sign 1: You hear positive feedback from people you know with parenting principles similar to yours.
In March or so I went to Camp Galileo website to learn more about the camp. I could easily figure out how this camp is divided into age groups and what options are offered to each group.
Good Camp Sign 2: Enough information is available for you on when you consider your options, and it’s not just marketing high-level overview of benefits.
Good Camp Sign 3: The camp appears well organized.
We were very disappointed last year with an incredible mess on sign off and pick up in a chess camp. The counselors apparently were not able to deal with the number of kids arriving at the same time. Galileo was much better organized and by the second day counselors knew kids by name and were talking about Smarty with us as if they knew her for a long time.
Sign 4: The camp stays with a theme.
I was very impressed with how well the camp stayed with their theme of Adventures Down Under. This theme was repeated every day in art, science, and outdoor activities. I also found it very intriguing that children were learning about art and cultures of less known places such as Papua New Guinea. In science kids were constructing monsoon shelters, devising systems for tsunami warnings, and created a tube weapon for blowing arrows.
Sign 5: The camp has a clear set of values and promotes those values through actions.
Children were recognized for camp values – being reflective, courageous, determined, visionary, and collaborative. They were given yarn bracelets of different colors when they demonstrated these values. Smarty got several courage rewards for being the first one to answer questions and a couple of visionary rewards for offering solutions out of the box. She didn’t get any determined or reflective commendations, which cracked me up – those are definitely not her strength areas, but at least her attention was attracted to importance of those qualities.
Sign 6: Campers are encouraged to stretch beyond their comfort zone.
What I liked about Camp Galileo is their attitude to trying, experimenting, and making mistakes. As you can see, Smarty’s blow tube didn’t quite stay put together, but she was still very proud of it. She had to experience that some of her ideas were not working out (like taping the wheels on her sail car) or that one has to be careful working with a hot glue gun. But she was thrilled to be trusted with real tools like glue guns and lino cutters and she wasn’t bothered with failures or not being the best – the process was truly more important than the result.
Sign 7: Most important: Your child really loves the camp, talks about it at home, and begs to go again next year. When Smarty found out that I am going to write a review of Camp Galileo, she said, It was the most awesome camp! Everything was great, I loved all the science, and art, and games, and skits, and I really hope that next year I can go for more than one week. I hope she will be able to, because it was truly a great experience.
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