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Education Special Section Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 18, 2010

Campers of all kinds find summer fun

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Summer camps for kids can be all you remembered, or entirely new experiences targeted for children’s special interests, according to area camp directors. From swimming and arts and crafts to environmental education, summer camps are taking applications now for day and overnight programs.

Camp Nassau

The Guilderland YMCA Camp Nassau is a local favorite that offers “all-around, general summer camp,” said its director, Brian Robinson.

Camp Nassau serves about 350 kids each week, for 10 weeks, he said, with the average child spending three weeks at the day camp.

“We teach swim lessons every day, and have free swim every day,” Robinson said, noting that kids’ swimming lessons are important to a majority of the campers’ parents.

Arts and crafts, sports, and drama are also offered during regular day camp weeks, with a cost of $205 per week. Specialty camps, like drama camp or art camp, cost $225 per week. Discoveries and Junior Discoveries camps, which include field trips away from the camp, cost $275 per week.

Junior Discoveries is aimed at students in fourth through sixth grades and is offered for four weeks. Discoveries Camp is for students in sixth through ninth grade, and is offered for eight weeks. These campers visit Grafton State Park and Saratoga State Park for swimming and play. They also go to Great Escape and other parks.

“Usually, discoveries camps sell out,” Robinson said. The other camps tend to be available up to a week before each weekly camp session starts, he said.

Campers from the ages of 3 to 15 are welcome, and they do not need to be Guilderland residents nor YMCA members.

“It’s open to the general public,” Robinson said. The majority of campers are from Guilderland, Slingerlands, and Delmar, he said.

The smallest campers, ages 3 and 4, attend half days from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All other campers attend from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each week of camp has a different theme, such as Carnival Week or Halloween Week, Robinson said. During Color Week, the campers are split into different color groups.

“That’s our biggest week,” he said. “It’s like an Olympic competition. We usually have over 400 kids that week. The kids love it.”

Brochures and application forms can be downloaded from the YMCA website www.cdymca.org, Robinson said.

“It’s an over all, well-rounded summer camp experience,” he said.

Environmental Ed Camps

For campers who want to go away overnight, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation offers Environmental Education Camps at four campgrounds throughout the state.

“Counselors are very well-trained in the environment,” said spokeswoman Maureen Wren, “and also in making learning fun for teens and young adults.”

The camps are designed for 12-to-14-year-old and 15-to-17-year-old boys and girls, and campers must meet the minimum age by Dec. 1, 2010.

Camps Colby, near Saranac in Franklin County, and DeBruce, in the southern Catskills, offer programs for the younger set. Camp Rushford, in Allegany County, and Camp Pack Forest, in the southern Adirondacks, offer camps for both age groups, separately.

Students attend one of the six weeks from July through the first week of August, and learn about different animals in the ecosystem, Wren said.

Counselors at the camps have a minimum two-year degree in natural resources or similar studies. They help students participate in “discovery groups” and complete six lessons on diverse topics like different habitats and the effects humans have on the environment.

Campers study water quality; swim, canoe, and develop outdoor skills; keep scientific journals; play games; and study animals by catching salamanders or netting butterflies. All camps offer what the DEC calls “sportsman education.” Camp Pack Forest offers shooting sports for its 15-to-17-year-olds.

Campers who went last year, or who enjoy this year and want to come back next year, can attend “returnee week,” which includes further excursions and daytrips.

The cost per camper per week is $325, Wren said. Many campers can be sponsored by local conservationist or community groups, and they are encouraged to search for sponsors within their communities.

Wren said that the DEC expects 1,200 students to take part in the environmental camps this summer.

Guilderland Taekwondo

Kids wanting to stay closer to home can try the summer program at Guilderland Martial Arts Family Taekwondo, even if they’ve never taken the sport before.

Owner Christine Clark said that the full-day program is offered for eight weeks in the summer, including the last two of August when many other camps are closed.

“Our focus is the five tenets of Taekwondo — self-control, integrity, perseverance, courtesy, and indomitable spirit,” Clark said. “It’s more than just a sport.”

The students are broken up into teams that earn points according to the tenets.

“Our big focus is on character-building,” Clark said.

In addition to a lot of Taekwondo, she said, students in the summer program play outside, watch a movie at lunch, and focus more on self-defense than the regular classes or after-school program classes usually do. During the week, students also put together a show for their parents.

Master Robert Rice is the instructor, and he and Clark supervise the children together. Rice, a local math teacher, is a fourth-degree black belt, Clark said. Each week of camp accommodates 20 students in first through sixth grades, with the ages mixed together. Classes are open to “anybody who wants to do it,” Clark said.

“I’m here with him. Our kids are here,” she said, noting that one of Rice’s sons is a student, as is her son. Students have the option of attending all summer, or of coming for only a week or two.

“We’ll have kids here all summer,” Clark said.

Classes are $120 per week per student, and sign-ups begin this week.

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