Like many local kids, Lexi and Kix Reinhardt cannot wait for summer to arrive.
Lexi, 11, and Kix, 9, are enrolled in summer camps through Chester County 4-H with the blessing of their mother, Shana Reinhardt, who appreciates the affordability and educational value of the programs. Lexi is enrolled in sewing for the fourth summer, and both children are taking science classes.
“They are information-rich,” said Reinhardt, 34, of Rock Hill, who home-schools Lexi and Kix. “A lot of good skills are being taught at these camps. It’s always a great experience.”
Local summer camps – varying from police training to dance and LEGOs to archery – are a place to meet new friends and see old pals, try something new and improve skills. For the kids of York County, there is a 10-week summer break.
Many families look forward to picking out and registering for summer camps. The possibilities seem endless.
At past 4-H camps, Kix liked building with electronic LEGOs and making a robotic creature out of a toothbrush, a battery, wire and tape. Lexi enjoyed touring the police station and collecting evidence at a crime scene during forensics camp.
She has also sewn a backpack, quilt and pajamas. Since sewing is not something that comes naturally to Reinhardt, she is thankful that the 4-H program has taught her daughter an important life skill.
No brain drain
The computer science and fine arts departments at Winthrop University come together to offer summer camps in 3-D printing, jewelry design and robotics.
The camps are led by Marguerite Doman, assistant professor of computer science, and Courtney Starrett, an associate professor of fine arts who is a jewelry designer.
Last summer’s response was overwhelmingly positive even before the end of the first sessions. Ever since, parents and students have been asking about 2015 camp offerings.
“Art has always been infused in everything we do. Now technology is becoming more ubiquitous,” Doman said. “It’s important for students to explore these together to realize that even though the details of the disciplines are studied independently, they are very related.”
Doman, a self-proclaimed “geek,” believes she would have loved these camps as a kid, especially the robotics camp that uses LEGOs.
Zip into nature
Touting the tagline “embrace the adventure,” Camp Canaan is a mix of traditional and thrill that sits on a 100-acre island along the Catawba River.
Up to 600 kids are expected to come through day and resident camps this summer, said Robbie Conley, the marketing manager.
Popular activities include kayaking, zip-lining, ropes courses, archery tag and, new this summer, bubble ball, in which campers wear giant inflatable balls as they play a game of soccer.
“Kids are looking for things that are different than what is offered to them in their daily lives,” Conley said.
The best part of his job is watching campers experience new things and reach their potential. A camper who has never been outdoors and is scared to walk in the grass at the beginning of the week is covered in mud by the end, he said. Many times, the high ropes course is a confidence builder.
Conley has heard campers say when they drive across the bridge to get to Camp Canaan, it’s a new start.
“Whatever troubles they are having, they can make friends and get away from life for a week,” he said. Some even choose to stay the whole summer.
Part of the camp’s success is a strict no electronics policy that extends to counselors who use walkie-talkies to communicate.
It’s well known that the best summer camps fill up fast. That’s why Reinhardt was unsure she should share her experience with 4-H.
“It’s a hidden gem,” she said.
Her family has started to get involved in 4-H programs throughout the year. Her husband, Will, even helps facilitate the shooting sports, including the sporting clays team.
“It’s just the feeling you get when you’re there,” she said, “a sense of community, a sense of fun and a lot of learning.”