Founded by

Jeff Bradbury

What Makes Summer Camp Amazing For Students of All Ages?

Puppet Camp 2018

The Perfect Summer Camp

At 2 p.m. we have 45 minutes left of work and almost every camper is busy. 2 sewing machines, a glue gun, the 3D printer, all have at least 2 kids working. We have made a giant book, 2 skirts, 3 shirts, a totally wrong pair of pants, and a bunch of new friends. I am the director of Create Innovate Play camp at Echo Horizon School in Culver City. I am trying hard to create the perfect summer camp for my kids. We are a small independent school that is a mainstreaming environment for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) students. About one-third of the students at Create Innovate Play are DHH.

My Summer Camp Program

Create Innovate Play is an extended school year program that focuses on communication and the other skills needed to be successful in a workshop-style informal learning environment. The program is 4 weeks M-F 8-3. Some students are enrolled for all 4 weeks, others are only enrolled for one week. Each week the group changes as does the theme of the week. Week one was Puppet Camp, Week two is Wearables Camp. The Third week is a cardboard camp themed “Dinosaur and Unicorn Ranch.” The final week is going to focus on designing cities and is called “Design Camp.” Each day has some brief instructional periods followed by long stretches where kids are working on projects they have come up with.

My Rules

As I introduced the second week of camp I asked, “Who can tell the new kids the rules?” Many hands went up and on student recited the rules “Rule one: don’t let Dr. Patterson crush your dreams. Rule two: safety first.” I then asked “What does rule one mean?” another student answered, “If Dr. Patterson says you can’t do something, don’t give up, keep asking, he will figure something out when he sees how important it is.” He nailed it! This is the foundation of creative culture I need in camp and I long for in every class I teach.

Where Ideas Come From

We start the day with a discovery table of books, or playdoh, or things to build with. We have a circle share about an idea we had during the discovery table, or we share what we built. Before we make anything “real” we plan, and we prototype. Before we prototype we think and explore ideas. When in doubt, we build class culture. We talk about listening to others and being interested in the ideas of others. How to be inspired by others and give credit. How to share ideas. These are all conversations we have in large and small groups.
I don’t know how much to share about summer camp, maybe my readers want to know something specific?
I am trying to write more about camp because I think that the time we have to explore, relate, and create is an amazing gift and I want my school-year kids to be this comfortable doing the creative work the maker space calls for.
I know that when I have 2 rooms with kids working on so many different things, and they are treating each other with kindness and respect, I am in the right place doing the right work. I am a guardian of this space. I facilitate creativity and friendships- the rest is details.

What is YOUR Perfect Summer Camp Memory?

We would love to have you share your memories of Summer Camp … or perhaps share what you are doing with your students/children this year. Please leave a comment below.

About the author, Sam

Sam is Makerspace coordinator at Echo Horizon School, the nicest little school on Los Angeles' West Side. In the classroom since '02 Sam has taught grades PreK-12. Every lesson is a writing lesson.