By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneJune 9, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Oh my, gosh, it's nearly summertime! What are you going to do with those kids'
If you're like many working parents with school-age children, summer can be a crazy time of balancing schedules, trying to keep the kids entertained and occupied, and filling the summer with fun childhood memories - all while you are holding down your job on the Arsenal.
But there's good news! Forget trying to find babysitters. Forget shipping the kids off to various summer camps. Forget worrying they are spending too much time in front of the television. Just bring your children to Redstone Arsenal, where 10 weeks of elementary and youth camps will give your kids a whole summer's worth of swimming, social time, games, field trips, crafts, recreation and fun!
"Our summer camps go beyond the traditional fun and games," said Andre Terry, chief of Child Youth and School Services for Redstone Arsenal's Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation. "We offer water sports, outdoor activities, crafts and educational experiences with groups like Sci-Quest. Everything is evolving around what the kids like to do."
Summer camp begins nearly as soon as the school doors close. June 1 is the start date, with programs ending Aug. 6.
Elementary age children will spend their first days at Summer Blast Off 2010 participating in Get Acquainted Week. The week will be filled with fun activities that will introduce them to the Game Zone, Xer Dance, Music and Drama, and several other activities areas at the School Age Services facility on Youth Center Road.
Middle and high school children will begin Summer Adventure 2010 with a week that includes a trip to Point Mallard Park, geo-caching and bowling as well as home-base fun at the Youth Center on Youth Center Road.
"This is all about giving the kids something to look forward to in the summer. We want them to have fun and build skills. There are a lot of good activities planned," Terry said. "Kids will get involved because the programs will involve them. We want parents to know their kids will be well taken care of and they will have a lot of fun with us."
The staff at both School Age Services and the Youth Center will be augmented with teachers hired from the local school systems and with college-age students pursuing degrees in education or recreation.
"The people hired to help with our summer camps love kids and love being around kids," Terry said. "We have a good group of college kids from local colleges that will join us for the summer. They've received all the training they need to do their job and to ensure the safety of the children. The veteran staff will team up with our new staff members to work together with the kids."
Children in grades one to five at the School Age Services facility will be divided into two summer camps, one group being the 6 to 8 year olds and the other being 9 to 11 year olds.
"Our parents will be real excited about this because for years we've had them all lumped together. But what do a 6-year-old and an 11-year-old have in common' They need different activities, challenges and games," Terry said.
During each day at summer camp, elementary age children will rotate through various areas at School Age Services, including the Reading Area, Technology Lab, the Game Zone, Sports, Arts and Crafts, Music and Drama, Xer Dance and Table Games. They will have Wet and Wild Mondays at a post swimming pool, jazz workshops, monthly talent shows and visits to the Bowling Center.
"This year, all of the children will go through all the activities we offer," said Mary Washington, director of School Age Services. "Even if they only want to do sports, we will also have them rotate through other areas so they can learn and participate in all of our activities. They will also have time just to play with their friends and enjoy themselves."
Field trips will take them to such places as the Tennessee Aquarium, Sci-Quest, the Nashville Zoo, Southern Adventures and Kids Kingdom.
At the Youth Center, sixth and seventh graders will be split into a group from teens in eighth to 12th grades, although the two groups will come together for some field trips and activities.
"This is a great place for working parents to leave their kids because they are not only safe here but they aren't just laying around the house all summer with nothing to do," said Scott Shuffler, director of Youth Services.
"We have a lot of fun programs that help our teens build their skills in many areas, including technology, social skills, music and sports. We also will have counseling sessions on things like safe teen dating and other issues important to teenagers."
Each day for youth campers will include activities in the Youth Center's gym, technology lab, arcade and art room. They will be able to participate in photography, video, drama and outdoor activities as well as in open recreation. They will swim, roller skate, trap shoot, play disc golf, practice archery and bowling. They can also participate in regular jazz workshops.
"Teenagers enjoy coming to summer camp and just being kids," Shuffler said. "We don't structure all their time at the Youth Center because a lot of times all they want to do is just come here and hang out with their friends. And, that's great. We want to let them choose what they want to do. But we also have some structured things because we want to introduce them to new experiences and stretch them a little bit. We are striving to build skills and relationships, and do things that are positive for the kids."
Field trips include Point Mallard Park, Wheeler Park Refuge, Nashville Zoo, Rock City, Nashville Shores Water Park, Tennessee Aquarium, Go USA Fun Park, Opry Mills Outlet Mall and Alabama Adventures.
"There's a big difference in the summer camp at School Age Services and the one at the Youth Center," Terry said.
"At School Age Services, it is 100 percent supervision, with caregivers trained to work and play with the children, to address issues that arise and to develop programs for the kids. At the Youth Center, there is still 100 percent supervision, but the teens have autonomy to come and go as they please. The Youth Center program is about offering recreation and leisure activities, not child care."
Each child will have their own locker at School Age Services or the Youth Center where they can leave personal items, such as a jacket or a change of clothes. They are not allowed to bring electronic devices or food to the centers. They will be served breakfast and lunch along with snacks.
Children can participate all 10 weeks of summer camp or parents can choose weeks based on their family's summer schedule. There are also daily packages available.
"Parents and children have a lot of options," Terry said.
Both School Age Services and the Youth Center have brochures that outline the details of summer camp, providing dates for field trips and other activities. Newcomers to the programs are always welcome.
"If you've not used our facility, you can come by and we will give you a walk through and a general orientation," Washington said. "All of our new kids will get a mentor so that they know someone in our program the day they walk in the door."
This year, summer camp is limited to 140 children in the School Age Services program and 90 teenagers in the Youth Center program. The cost of summer camp is based on total family income. Children can be registered for summer camp at Parent Central Services, building 1500. For more information, call School Age Services at 876-6596 or the Youth Center at 876-5437.