Spring ushers in registration ritual

By Mary Ann Ebner

Spring may be slow to show herself this year, but it won’t be long before school’s out. And with that ring of the bell comes the summer camp season. With band camp, sports camp, drama camp, religion camp, art camp and traditionally on the list of options — nature camp — families face an abundance of choices for children.

Susan Richardson, camp director and recreation supervisor with the Philipstown Recreation Department, has coordinated youth summer camp in Philipstown for the past seven years.

Susan Richardson One
Susan Richardson, camp director and recreation supervisor with the Philipstown Recreation Department, has coordinated summer camp in Philipstown for the last seven years. (Photo by M.A. Ebner)

“Our primary mission is to give the community a place where their children can come and be safe and have fun,” Richardson said. Campers swim, hike, explore science and nature, and work with a variety of arts and crafts projects. Programs range from preschool day camp to youth sports camp, Mad Science, theatre camp (in collaboration with Philipstown Depot Theatre) and even teen travel camp. Registration, now in progress, is open to residents and non-residents.

“The preschool camp fills, sports camps fill, teen travel fills, we even coordinate the Junior Fire Academy,” Richardson said. “We recommend that families register as early as possible as certain things are space limited. And if you come for all eight weeks, there is a discount. We have a lot of kids who come all summer, every summer, and we watch some of these kids grow up.”

Maria Stein-Marrison, director of the Manitou School, coordinates summer programs at the Manitou Learning Center in Garrison.

“Speaking as a parent, what happened with my own kids was calling too late for popular camps like Manitoga,” Stein-Marrison said. “A lot of places have waiting lists. It pays to be on waiting lists. I tell people to keep calling back. Waiting list spots open up as people’s plans change.”

The Manitou programs are designed for children to explore creative ideas, in addition to learning Spanish, and to enhance learning in a natural environment.

At outdoor camps in the area, children learn and grow under a canopy of trees and blue skies. At Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall, children ages 4 to 15 may attend half and full-day camp.

“Kids don’t get outside enough,” Marian Goldin, the nature museum’s marketing manager said. “We offer the wonders of the natural world. It’s a science and nature camp.”

Camp counselors want kids to get their hands dirty, and Common Ground Farm located in the Town of Wappingers Falls, builds their program of fun and learning all around dirt. Sember Weinman, education director at Common Ground Farm, encourages kids to dig in the dirt and explore.

“Fundamentally, our camp is about exposing kids to the outdoors but also about growing and consuming their own food,” Weinman said. “We are trying to enable kids to see the cycle of food and help them eat healthier. Kids will get to be outside which is sometimes a missing piece from the classroom.”

Building Bridges Building Boats campers in 2011
Building Bridges Building Boats campers in 2011 (file photo)

And the outdoor experience around town extends from land to water. For rising sixth graders and older children, parents may want to research learning more about the Hudson River as their summer classroom. The workshops offered through Building Bridges Building Boats function much like summer camp, where kids learn from beginner through advanced levels. The organization’s director, David Hardy, explained that at the minimum, kids learn the basics of a river trip.

“By the end of the workshop,” Hardy said, “kids can steer, row and land a boat on the beach. We live on the Hudson River. Send the kids. We’re supposed to be about the river and this is a river town. They should give it a try. The kids get to learn their local waters from a boat.”

If not on the water, children can also learn near the water. The Garrison Art Center offers a summer program, Summer Arts on the Hudson, Pre-K through eighth grade, and Summer Art Institute for teenagers entering ninth through 12th grade. Barbara Smith Gioia, the Garrison Art Center’s education coordinator, said any child who loves to explore creativity is welcome.

“There’s a little unstructured time where the kids run through the sprinklers and play on the landing,” Smith Gioia said, “but it’s mostly about art. Our younger programs fill up, and we generally cut off at 50. There’s also a discount when signing up now before April 15 for Summer Arts, and before May 1 for Summer Art Institute.”

New this year for teens, the art center is also offering a special workshop for portfolio development and how to document work including photographing and organizing the presentation of images.

Lori Moss outside at Manitoga
Lori Moss, assistant director and camp coordinator at Manitoga, encourages learning under big blue skies. (Photo by M.A. Ebner)

In the effort to let kids be kids, to unplug and be a little carefree, Manitoga’s Summer Nature & Design Camp at the Russel Wright Design Center provides the setting to soak up knowledge and learn about the natural world in a fun environment. Lori Moss, Manitoga’s assistant director and camp coordinator, says even children who haven’t spent a great deal of time with nature come away from Manitoga with a new appreciation for reading trails and identifying wildlife.

“A lot of kids come and they’re a little timid about nature,” Moss said. “After a short time, you see them engaging and handling salamanders and it’s incredible.”

For parents who aren’t certain nature camp is a good fit for their child, Moss invites families to Open Camp Day from 2 to 4 p.m. on May 3 (rain date May 4) to meet the staff and experience the natural setting of Manitoga.

“I tell people to come to Open Camp Day,” Moss said. “Our counselors are great, they can talk to them and it’s a good way to see if their kids would fit in here.”

If children want to polish lacrosse shots or Shakespeare, hike a trail or paint on canvas, camp registration is now open. Local coordinators recommend visiting their websites and calling with questions. Some registrations are available online, others may be made by phone or mail. Scholarships are also offered for many programs.

Richardson said that the most important part of the mission at the Philipstown Recreation Department is to serve families. Prices are affordable, and sibling discounts apply. Moss also noted that Manitoga has received funds from benefactors to help support their scholarships for summer camp.

Information for these and many more camps are posted at organizational websites, which include dates, fees and program details.

Summer Program Contacts

All Sport Camp Fit, Fishkill, 845-896-5678

Army Sports Camps, West Point

Beacon Music Factory, 845-202-3555

Beacon Theatre, 845-226-8099

BOCES Science and Exploration Camps, Carmel, 845-225-9256

Building Bridges Building Boats, Cold Spring, 845-265-4290

Buddist Summer Camp at Chuang-Yen (July 2-6), 845-225-1445

Common Ground Farm, Beacon, 845-231-4424

Dutchess Art Camp, Beacon, 845-471-7477

Eden Village Camp, Putnam Valley, 877-397-3336

Garrison Art Center, 845-424-3960

Hot to Trot Stables Horse Camp, Cold Spring, 914-906-3563

Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, Cornwall, 845-534-5506, ext. 211

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Cold Spring, 845-809-5750 x13

Longhaul Farm (July 28 to Aug. 1), Cold Spring, 845-424-6277

Manitoga, Garrison, 845-424-3812

Manitou School, Cold Spring, 914-227-6461

Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, Poughkeepsie, 845-471-0589

Philipstown Recreation Department, Garrison, 845-424-4618

Randolph School Day Camps, Beacon, 845-297-5600

Stony Kill Farm, Wappingers Falls, 845-831-1617

Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Cold Spring, 845-265-3409

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Ebner is a food columnist and freelance journalist.