Summer camp. A place of friends, games, crafts, camp songs and lifelong memories. Here in Queens and Brooklyn, numerous camps are doing all they can to pack New York City children’s summers full of fun, while also keeping education at the forefront of their curriculum and fight the summer learning gap.
The North Brooklyn YMCA organizes its entire program around keeping kids active and thinking throughout the warm months.
“Our main thing is to track the summer learning gap,” Senior Director Michael Garcia said.
The YMCA picks a theme every summer, and this summer’s theme is medieval times. The eight-week camp (with a minimum sign-up of two weeks) will feature an age-appropriate book of the week discussing different aspects of medieval life. Campers will have different projects and crafts based on what they are learning, and will take related field trips, such as to the Cloisters here in the city.
But Garcia assured that there will be typical camp activities, too. Sports and gym games will abound, and while one field trip over the course of the two weeks will be educational and related to medieval times, the other will be purely recreational.
Another camp that incorporates education into its fun is the Variety Boys & Girls summer camp in Astoria. The camp offers numerous mini-programs, including arts, sports, swimming, STEM and visual arts. These mini-programs have two four-week sessions each with 20 slots per program.
They also have a computer lab to teach the kids computer skills, and a leadership program for kids entering or already in high school, which is by invitation only and involves an interview process. Their swim program is run through the ZAC foundation, which means kids will learn about water safety as they improve their swim skills.
The camp also features programs that are special to the Variety Boys & Girls Club, such as “smart girls,” a time for girls to talk about issues relevant to their age group.
Mill Basin Day Camp in Brooklyn also emphasizes the diversity of the programs and activities available to their kids. Mill Basin features sports, arts, drama, a TV studio, two dance studios, swimming, two computer labs and a baking center, for starters.
Owner Jack Grosbard said that for many kids, camp will be the first time they are doing many of these activities.
“Like the baking program, especially with the boys,” he said. “We bring them to the baking center and they’re like, ‘Baking? Isn’t that for girls?’ And then all of a sudden they get in there and they’re like, ‘Wow, cool.’”
While some camps advertise their range of activities, others specialize in one field, like the Martin Luther summer basketball program in Maspeth, which has been in operation for more than ten years.
The program works with the New York Scholastic Athletic Association, which brings in coaches that are either current or former college basketball players. The kids then focus on skills, such as passing, shooting, rebounding and defense.
Director Chris Brown said that boys and girls ages 6-14 of all skill levels are welcome to attend, and that the focus of the camp is to broaden their knowledge of the game.
“They walk away not just improved in their skills but understanding more about the game of basketball,” Brown said, which he felt was an important distinction from other sports camps.
While all of the camps have something different and exciting to offer, the underlying goal for each is the same. They want to provide options for a safe and fun summer for the parents and children of Brooklyn and Queens.