It used to be that the options campers found at summer camp were fairly simple: There was arts and crafts, where you could make a popsicle-stick napkin holder to delight your parents. There was softball and basketball and dodgeball, all of which got much more serious during Color War. There was swimming to beat the heat, of course, and maybe a summer musical.
These days, the options for kids have expanded greatly, from the addition of innumerable sports to the incorporation of digital technology. Luckily for families in the Mid-Atlantic region, there is no shortage of summer camps with an eclectic and stimulating array of activities. We reached out to three of them to learn about the less typical camp fare they’re offering.
McDonogh Summer Day Camps
McDonogh’s Red Eagle Summer Camp has been in operation for nearly 80 years, offering two three-week sessions over the course of the summer. While Red Eagle is the most traditional summer camp McDonogh offers, campers are given access to an abundance of specific activity camps, including anything from science to sports to drones. Yes, drones.
“We’ve been doing the droning camp for two years,” said Ramzi Sifri, Summer Camps director. Beginning this year, McDonogh has teamed with the Virgina- based company Drobots to design three one-week droning camps with different themes. Week one’s theme is superheroes; week two looks at the logisitics behind escape and rescue missions; and week three is a technical camp about how to build and race drones through obstacle courses.
In addition to the sprawling activity choices, McDonogh provides daily transportation and meals at no additional cost. “We have 80 to 90 bus stops as far south as Annapolis and as far north as Hunt Valley,” said Sifri. “We also offer the same menu that the high schoolers get during the school year.”
According to Sifri, parents start calling to plan activities for their kids as early as November, so there’s no time to waste. McDonogh’s two camp sessions begin on June 18 and July 9.
Conrad Weiser Summer Camp
Each summer, the South Mountain YMCA in Reinhold, Pa., holds its overnight Conrad Weiser Summer Camp sessions. It should be noted: This is not your typical YMCA.
Beginning June 17, the Conrad Weiser Summer Camp will host four one-week literary immersion summer camps. Each camp offers children ages 10 to 15 an opportunity to participate in themed activities tied directly to some of their favorite popular books. Week one will be Camp Half-Blood, an immersion into the popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians fiction series.
“We take traditional camp activities and put twists according to the novels to [them],” said Cory Evansm, the camp’s director. During the course of the week, campers can even pen their own fan fiction.
If the literary immersion does not pique a child’s interest, the South Mountain YMCA campus offers courses in horseback riding, swimming and creative arts, among others. For teen campers, day and overnight trips focusing on leadership opportunities, including paintball training and counselour training, are available.
Perhaps the most unique element of the camp is the opportunity for campers to participate in international travel. The South Mountain YMCA partners with YMCAs in Russia, Germany and Spain and send children overseas to stay with a host family for two weeks, followed by one week of travel.
For more information on program applications, start dates and tuition, visit SMYMCA.org.
UMBC Summer Camps
UMBC’s summer camps have been running for 40 years now, and the options have naturally increased. Over the course of nine weeks, kids have the opportunity to swim twice a day, practice martial arts, create arts and crafts or sweat it out in a fitness dance class. And those are only a few of the activities offered.
Although there are many athletic activities, Tom Maier, administrator of the day camp, says competitive rivalries are not the camp’s focus.
“We’re not interested at all in wins and losses,” said Maier. “We’re more interested in socialization and the kids getting accustomed to diversity. We do have a widely diverse camp.”
The camp’s diversity is an apt parallel to the diversity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County during its college semesters. Maier says giving the youngsters a bit of insight into what goes on on a college campus is part of the summer camp’s appeal.
“For a lot of kids we give them an early college experience. They’re on the same campus as [the college students] so they get the feel of what a college campus is like from a very early age.”
In addition to the wide array of activities, UMBC likes to switch up the camp themes each week.
“We want to keep the kids interested,” said Maier. “Each week has a new theme. It might be Fourth of July Week, it might be Carnival Week, Water Week, Disney Week” – all to keep campers, especially those attending for all nine weeks, on the edge of their seats.
Sessions last from June 11 until August 12.
Connor Graham is a local freelance writer.