Click here to download MLT’s Summer 2013 Camps chart.
Soon after classrooms empty out for the summer, many Main Line private schools become destinations for warm-weather fun and adventure. There are few, if any, lazy days of summer for camp administrators overseeing up to 100 different activities and programs. In fact, it’s a yearlong commitment.
Episcopal Academy welcomes campers from kindergarten through 12th grade. Last summer, more than 800 kids participated in its seven-week program, which offers early drop-off and the late pickup options—a must for busy parents and families who vacation. “For the parents’ sake, we’re all about flexibility,” says Alex Thompson, director of summer programs at EA. “You can choose a full-day program or a part-day. You can choose one class for one week, a full day for seven weeks, or anything in between.”
And while school-based camps offer their share of fun, there are also plenty of academic-based programs, whether it’s reading or math. “Many times, parents have their child enrolled in an academic program and also sign them up for a fun program,” says Thompson. “We’re parents, too, so we understand that there needs to be a balance.”
Some programs offer high-school-age campers the chance to prep for the SATs, or even take courses for credit. “I think parents want a program that can grow with their kids,” Thompson says. “Kids don’t want to be limited to the same things year after year, and parents want them to have the option to try new things as they get older and their interests change.”
In terms of fun, summer camp is an ideal way to introduce a child to a new activity or sport without making a substantial investment of time or money. Whether it’s soccer or tae kwon do, kids can try it out in a weeklong camp setting, rather than committing to a full season. Camps are also great for specialized activities like fencing, woodworking and even life-skills courses (financial literacy, anyone?). The Westtown School in West Chester offers “Real Good Food,” where campers learn cooking skills and the science behind them. Last summer’s program included a field trip to Philadelphia’s Italian Market.
Westtown has certified teachers leading all summer camp programs. “There’s al-ways a learning component in all of our programs,” says Kirstie Wills, Westtown’s director of summer programs. “I always like to tell parents that our camps are educational, but the kids don’t even realize it.”
While most area schools offer only day programs, Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne takes advantage of its residential campus to also offer an overnight camp. Unlike its day program, which is co-ed, overnight is for boys only—an adventure camp for ages 9-13 and a fitness camp for those 14-17. Campers can choose between a two-week and a four-week session.
At VFMA, campers have access to its horse stables, climbing tower, shooting range, Marine-style obstacle course and other unique amenities. “Everything we offer can be done on our campus, except sailing,” says Joseph Haughey, VFMA director of summer camps. “For that, we go to Marsh Creek State Park in Upper Uwchlan Township.”
Now in its 69th year, VFMA’s camps program attracts kids from all over the world, including China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Central and South Americas.
“It’s definitely not your typical camp experience,” says Haughey.