It’s NOT too late for summer. I am excited to share with you tips for getting your summer program at your center off to a great start – even if you are just starting today. I know, it is February; it is time to get ready!
One of my memorable experiences as a director started in the month of April back in 2001. I know, ages ago, but bear with me here. We had a very large building and enrollment needed everything I had. So I started our school age program and went to work on creating our summer program that was going to start in less than two months.We are going to make some basic assumptions before we get started. We are going to assume that you do have a school age program currently and have the capacity to hold more children than you currently have.
The easiest place to get started now that you have decided that you are interested in having a summer program is to create “theme weeks”. These do not have to be complicated – but, they do make it easier for you to come up with marketing, curriculum, field trips, guest speakers and other activities.
Since you have a school age program you have at least one person on staff who has experience working with kids. And tomorrow you will sit down with the kids who come to your program and ask them WHAT DO YOU LIKE? This will be HUGE – you actually asked them for their input. If you use this you will win them over.
So for the “sake” of examples – we are going to look at my program from 2001…..
We had 6 school agers who were really the children of the teachers and a sibling of other kids in the program. I noticed in the registration material that we had at least 20 additional siblings that we could tap. I held a kids night out and got their feedback too. This was key to our success- Market Research!
The one popular option was going to the movies – well I didn’t really want to do the FREE movie option so we decided that instead of every week — we would go once a month to a new release. I looked up the new movies that were coming out that summer, and boy, was it a doozy! SO many kids movies!
That became the focus for at least 3 of the weeks/1 quarter of the summer. We read the books that went with the movie, we acted out what we thought it would be about, cooked food, did projects and involved ALL ages.
Our summer program had kids 5-12 and we did have space to split them – but – the question was “were we going to have enough kids to cover the cost of staff.” We needed to make sure our program was going to appeal to parents as well as the kids!!!
So what are some of the summer camps we had? Fairytale camp – SHREK; Spy camp – Spy Kids; Comic camp – Any of the marvel comic movies – Around the World in 80 Days– Martial arts.
You don’t need to go to the new movies you could do the camps around the movies coming out this summer and then have them go with their families to the movie. Or you can build around great movies, that most of the kids haven’t seen (like those ones from 2001). Then the week after could be a camp on acting, VLOGGING, writing reviews, making their own mini movies, etc.
Your location, your staff and what you have is KEY to creating a great camp. Find out the talents of your staff – do they play a sport, sing, dance, cheer, artistic, garden, hike, nature, scouts? Not only your school age staff but other staff too – do they scrap? Do they love you tube? Do they love to act or sing? Why not get them excited about doing something different in the afternoons – they can be in charge of science, art, acting, music, etc. – once a week.
We were an inner city program with nothing that looked like “nature” and most of the kids had never been camping or hiking –so this was something we wanted to do – we worked with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to get the Outdoor kids program and had a girl scout staff person who was excited to take them on urban hikes to discover the nature outside. We also put up a several bird feeders on the windows and in trees – the kids charted the visitors during the summer. We had bird books and binoculars at the windows – we also spent a day learning how to use them. We also had a guest speaker from the Audubon Society.
During another camp we had a guest speaker who brought owls, we dissected owl pellets and watched a Harry Potter movie.
One program I work with has had an Harry Potter camp every summer and if a movie comes out it is that week – otherwise it is the week of July 31st (Harry’s Birthday).
Quick NOTE – summer camps do not have to be expensive to be fun. Just be creative or find a way to partner.
The programs at other centers are going to be different enough and probably far enough away that you are not going to be competing with them. Partner with them! Network and share resources – if you decide to do a spy camp or a CSI camp – trust me you will not need to use all the “ink” and other materials you will get that week.
Don’t forget to partner with your local businesses for tours and encourage the kids to read during the summer with different summer reading programs and regular trips to the library.