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Summer Program Planning for Elementary Students

Updated: 4 days ago



This week was an exciting one in my neighborhood: the temperature peeked its head above 75 degrees for the first time in a long time, my flowers are in full bloom, and we have finally broken out our flip-flop collection! This means it’s officially time to start thinking about summer!


While it’s hard to believe, the end of the school year is only a few weeks away, and it’s time to start planning for summer. Whether for childcare coverage, to prevent the academic “summer slide,” or for fun, there are a variety of reasons why families may choose different summer programs for their elementary school children.


To learn more about summer camp for younger children, I turned to camp expert


Ryan Scarfile, the Director of Camps at Go Crazy Camp based in Timonium, Maryland, which serves students from Pre-K through 7th grade. Ryan grew up going to summer camp, graduated from Towson University in 2014, and is now a Physical Education teacher at an elementary school in Baltimore County, Maryland. Ryan received his Master of Education in Special Education along with a Graduate Certificate in teaching students with Autism from the University of Arkansas while also co-founding Go Crazy Camp in 2019. In his spare time, Ryan enjoys spending time with his two young children and competing in the amateur disc golf circuit. Thanks Ryan!


In your experience, tell us a little about why families might choose to send their young children to summer camp?


In 2019 my students’ parents knew me as the young, energetic PE teacher. They figured I could tire out their children during the summer, which for parents, can be long days! Most of the students’ parents are 12-month employees and needed reliable childcare during the summer break. That’s how Go Crazy Camp was born.


Then, during the COVID pandemic, parents wanted a space for their children to interact with others, get up, and move in a safe environment. I was fortunate to have the outdoor facilities available to offer a safe camp experience, which was a welcome break from isolation for the campers.


As we’ve expanded programming, my goal has been to provide a safe, reliable, enriching, and fun camp experience for the campers while also fulfilling parents’ need for summertime childcare.


What types of summer camp programs are available for younger children?


There is a camp for everything. In 2019 my camp originated solely as a sports camp. In response to increased interest, we pivoted to be a Day Camp that offered many specialized programs and expanded our programming to include options for campers in Pre-K through 7th grade. We now have an Art Camp, Drama Camp, STEM Camp, Sports Camp, Day Camp (offers a little bit of everything), a half-day TOTS camp for Pre-K and future Kindergarteners, as well as a Primary Camp specifically targeting future 1st and 2nd graders.

All that said, there can be a wide variety of camp offerings for kids of all ages.


When choosing a camp for their younger children, what should parents consider?


As a parent of two young boys, the safety and well-being of my children are my top considerations. Is the camp you are considering reliable, safe, and going to take care of your kids to the best of their ability? As a camp director, my relationship with camper parents is very important, and I make it a priority to gain and sustain their trust. As we’ve grown, many of my camper families have relied on word-of-mouth. I’d recommend that parents reach out to other parents, teachers, and camp staff about their experiences with a particular camp, specifically regarding safety. Other things to consider would be the camp's cost, location, times it operates, and activities that the campers will be completing. Make sure you sign up your kid for a camp that interests them and works within your family’s schedule and means. We pride ourselves on being the most economical camp for parents, but the best camp for the kids. This is my passion project, and I think families immediately feel that when they meet myself or any of my wonderful staff members.


Lastly, ensure the camp is operating under the state’s camp regulations. In Maryland, all camps are regulated by the state and must follow specific codes, guidelines, and parameters. If camps are not following the state requirements, they will lose their license and can no longer operate. You wouldn’t want to go to a restaurant that doesn’t have a license to prepare and sell food, and camp is the same.


Understandably, some parents may be hesitant to send a younger child to camp for the first time. Do you have any advice?


Absolutely! Reach out to whomever oversees the camp. I have had this happen numerous times, especially for my TOTS camp. If the person who runs the camp cannot answer your questions in a timely and thorough manner, that camp might not be a good fit. I always try to be extremely responsive, open, and honest with parents, especially as a parent myself, because that is what I would expect others to do for me. Also reach out to previous families that have attended. Ask for honest feedback. If other parents aren’t giving positive reviews of the camp or there have been prior “incidents,” I would look at other options.


What about younger children with special needs? Can they go to camp? What advice or encouragement do you have for parents of children with special needs who may be considering camp?


We welcome campers with special needs. We have had students attend with minor physical impairments, type 1 diabetes, and significant emotional trauma. We see plenty of children with more common disabilities, like ADHD and anxiety. By offering so many different styles of camps, we really try to meet the needs of all children. Having my Masters in Special Education and working with a population of students with severe disabilities during the school year really motivates me to make camp accessible for everyone. Many students with more serious special needs have the opportunity to attend summer school, so many of my students in outside general education (OGE) style classes typically do not sign up for camp; however, we will absolutely welcome children with severe disabilities.


Obviously, not every camp can accommodate children with disabilities, but just as I mentioned previously, do your research and reach out to the directors or owners of the camp. You may be surprised at the willingness of camps to help develop a specific plan to include your child in their camp.


In your experience, what are the main benefits of attending summer camp?


From my personal experience as a camper, counselor, program director, and now camp owner, the main benefits of attending camp are the lasting impact of the relationships built. I have built relationships with others at every camp I attended and worked at, and this has played a vital role in shaping me and who I am to this day. I met my wife while working at a camp and have built lifelong friendships with people I used to work with at camp [Ed. Note: Including me!]. Summer camp provides children with an opportunity to get off screens and learn how to build relationships with others face-to-face. Camp allows kids to go to camp with their best friends and build a stronger relationship with them. A well-run camp should affect the whole child; their social, emotional, and physical well-being should be uplifted and cared for while at camp.


Do you have any camp anecdotes you would like to share?


In 2020, I jumped through about a thousand hoops to get camp to run that year. Go Crazy was one of the very few local camps to operate for summer 2020, and I pushed so hard to do so because I knew the kids needed it. I had two campers, previous students of mine, who had missed the final half of their 5th grade year due to COVID. They hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye to their friends or teachers at the end of the school year, their very last year of elementary school. The last day of the last week of camp, they were crying tears of joy and sadness all at once, thankful to have had one more opportunity with friends before the big transition to middle school, after what was a very hard year for them due to COVID. That moment, I realized that those countless hours spent trying to get camp to run that summer were worth it. This year, both campers are now paid counselors for me and will oversee their own campers this summer! I’d like to say that 2020 was the hardest summer I’ve ever had, but of course the challenges changed and grew. Since then, we have survived losing power at our location for multiple days just days prior to the Drama Camp’s presentation of Annie the Musical, we had a last-minute location change because our location was also an election site… I’ve also suffered one broken toe along the way… I’ve learned a lot over the past six years as a camp director, and I certainly never expected to have over 700 campers registered across four weeks and two locations for summer 2024, but here we are! I couldn’t have done it without everyone who helped me along the way. Shout out to my awesome co-owner Lisa Sauerwald, my wife who gives me grace as I wear so many hats, and all my staff. Without them, we couldn’t be there for the kids, honestly my favorite part of camp!

Thanks for your time, Hannah. Is it summer yet?!?

 

Warmly,

Hannah


Hannah Buzzelli joined the Bennett Operations team in 2019 where she helped manage the company’s daily workflow and provided natural expertise in process refinement. She has since become a regular member of our blogging team. In 2022, Hannah took on a new role at Bennett as Scholarship Programs Manager, and in this capacity she has led the building out of all aspects of Bennett’s Scholarship Management Program: the IT platform for the receipt of scholarship applications, the processes whereby scholarship students are selected, the communications related to all stages of the application process, the onboarding of new scholarship recipients, and the student tracking and reporting required by the corporate scholarship provider. She has also helped to develop the mentoring program that supports scholarship recipients as they transition from secondary school their native countries to universities around the world.


Over the years, Bennett International Education Consultancyhas worked with hundreds of corporations across the globe, many of them Fortune 500 companies, providing domestic and international school advisement & placement services - preschool through university - to the dependents of relocating employees. In addition to education placement, our team provides customized consulting for corporations with a range of education issues: education policy writing & benchmarking, tuition studies, group move advisement & planning, and remote education solutions.

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