YMCA summer day camps have always been a place for kids to have fun, spend time with friends and simply celebrate the joys of summer. But kids who attend day camp at YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit get a little something extra blended into the fun.
They get a boost of summer learning in an immersive, fun environment — the perfect antidote to a school year run largely in a virtual, screen-based format.
After more than a year of interrupted learning — not to mention disrupted sports, clubs and other friend-building activities — kids need YMCA summer camp now more than ever, says Abigail Sacco, executive director of afterschool and day camp with YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit.
“Technology and electronics are a big part of how we live, and especially during the pandemic, kids have used screens more than ever,” Sacco says. “Giving kids time to use their imagination is so important. Being outdoors and really being able to build on all the learning opportunities our camps offer is what kids need right now.”
Many Y camps have long had an educational theme woven into each week of programming, and last summer, every child who attended a Y summer day camp experienced an English language arts (ELA) and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum custom developed by Barbara DuRei, retired teacher and administrator with decades of experience designing and coordinating educational programming for kids.
The intent was to combat the “summer slide,” or halt of educational momentum that inevitably happens when kids are out of the classroom for the summer months.
“Our original goal with our first venture into academics was to maintain, not lose over the summer,” DuRei explains. “Our last set of statistics for our (Farmington Hills) Camp Riley program in 2019 was a 3.7% gain in vocabulary and a 27% gain in math. Since then, (the curriculum) has been expanded to all Y Day camps in Metro Detroit with all ELA and math activities based on State of Michigan Common Core standards.”
The best part? Kids don’t even know they are building brain power while having fun. “The activities are fun, hands-on and encourage active participation,” says DuRei.
Looking to help your child get the most out of this summer? Read on for more about YMCA summer day camp learning opportunities.
Weekly themes kids love
Beginning mid-June, kids can attend one of eight Y summer day camps and dig into weekly themes such as Mad Science, Wacky Water, Olympics or Galactic Adventures — even the unlikely combination of Pirates, Wizards and Fairies, Oh My!
Kids learn so well at these camps because they receive increased personal attention compared to the typical school, and they are exposed to a wide range of environments, including indoor, outdoor and parks where they are encouraged to explore, discuss and learn new ways of experiencing the world that take them beyond desk-and-pencil learning, says DuRei.
“Yes, we do use pencils, but as tools for notes and recordkeeping, designing and creating,” she says.
Themes naturally lend themselves to math and science activities, as kids graph and sort using Trix cereal and Skittles, figure decimals and percentages using M&Ms and capitalize on the fact that Cheez-Its are 1 square inch. “Finger paint geometry and play dough shapes and fractions are also part of our hands-on math,” says DuRei. By using tools that are familiar to kids, they learn to see math in their everyday lives.
Each theme also includes age-appropriate fiction and nonfiction books that help children become better readers while learning history, social studies and cultural concepts, too. Academics are part of almost every summer camp day and include DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), journaling and writing activities and fun math activities that are “differentiated to accommodate varying skill levels in age groups,” DuRei says.
What campers take home
Along with fresh air and plenty of healthy movement blended into learning wherever possible, campers take home concepts they’re likely enthusiastic about sharing with their families. Parents should expect to see growth in their kids, something that may have slowed after more than a year of online or hybrid learning.
“Parents should see more confidence and willingness to share ideas,” DuRei explains. “They should hear and see their children share about the themes of the literature. We open conversations about topics such as managing bullies, intergenerational relationships, cultural similarities and differences, gang violence and positive choices, friendship, historical events and respect for others. Campers should also recognize math examples in their daily life.”
Learn more about how YMCA summer day camp programs help build mind, body and spirit for kids this summer at ymcadetroit.org/camp/day-camp.