Open for Summer: Camps

By Kate C. Patchett - May 11, 2021

Keeping a childhood experience alive in the Hamptons

It’s on – summer camps will be open this year. Though things may look a little different as camps have had to make adjustments to ensure the safest, healthiest experiences possible, leaders of some of the Hamptons’ best institutions are ready to get kids active and engaged. While it’s no secret pandemic life often felt isolating, camp directors report that thanks to the resilience of children, the transition back into camp life is almost seamless. They’ve gotten used to social distancing, mask wearing, and continual hand washing, and still want to learn, laugh, and play. Here’s what to look forward to at three Hamptons Summer camps this year…

One of the joys of camp is making new friends. Even with COVID-19, it’s possible to have fun while staying safe. Collaborative activities make for a well-rounded experience. It’s an interactive approach to problem solving, creativity, and building that iCAMP co-founder Brendan Manley, who founded the camp with his wife, Lulu Keszler, finds to be the unifying foundation of summer camp. What sets this particular camp apart is its equal focus on outdoor learning and technology. Campers enjoy experiences like working with drones, 3D printing, and art, while also spending time in the outdoor classroom working on science experiments, tending to the organic garden, and playing camp games.

As a STEAM program, there is a strong emphasis on art, design, and creativity as well. Manley finds that even children that may not be fans of art are happily rolling up their sleeves and getting absorbed in their projects. Technology of course is a prime feature, with building, creating, and exploring used to support campers’ creative ambitions. “Our program is meant to blur the lines between camp and school,” Manley says. “We are as much of an educational program as we are a camp. The secret sauce of course is keeping it fun and light-hearted. Kids love exploration and they love learning, so it is easy to harness this passion into productive activities.”

A beloved summer camp activity for many is sports. Staying active, learning a skill and the value of teamwork, and enjoying the outdoors is an essential feature. With three summer programs including Summer Camp, Sports Camp, and Summer Team, Ross School offers a selection of activities that meet the needs of any camper. Programs, after all, were designed based on children’s interests. Dan Roe, director of communications at Ross School, explains that their COVID Response Team has allowed for a safe and healthy space for students and campers alike, without sacrificing the overall experience. Many summer camp programs in particular are naturally COVID-safe. 

When looking to this summer, director of community programs Christopher Engel, director of Ross School Tennis Academy Vinicius Carmo, and director of residential life and international student services Anja Abney are committed to continuing to offer the ultimate Hamptons summer camp experiences. 

Tennis is the most popular sport offered at camp, and along with other recreational sports, the academy is dedicated to developing athletes of all ages and levels. Themed programs for older campers will include filmmaking, coding, and robotics, and Art Fusion, which is a mix of painting, drawing, and ceramics. “We recently had to add extra classes for our younger campers program, Creative Explorations, ages 3-6,” says Carmo. “[It’s] a combination of arts, science, performing arts, wellness, and languages, including Mandarin. There has been so much demand for it that all the spots filled up as soon as registrations opened.”

International students will also get to enjoy the Hamptons summer camp experience. All that attend will be encouraged to have fun, discover who they are, and learn about one another. It’s a core value of Ross School, and one that is carried through all of their summer programs.

A place where children can learn and laugh is essential, especially during the summer months when the camaraderie typically afforded during the school year becomes limited. During pandemic times, camp offers a sense of normalcy. A sense of community, however, is a strong part of the foundation of Hamptons Art Camp and Hamptons Community Outreach.

With a goal of bringing children from diverse communities together, Hamptons Art Camp celebrates creativity, diversity, and creates a culture of giving and community service. Favorited activities include painting, tie dye, science experiments, and of course, making slime. Community service projects are also part of the curriculum, instilling a sense of pride and connection to the community by making soaps for children staying in shelters or dog beds and leashes for the Southampton Animal Shelter. This year, the camp will be relocating to The Church, a newly reconstructed exhibition space and creative center in the heart of Sag Harbor where the children will be surrounded and inspired by works of art.

Executive director Marit Molin shares the camp is a branch of its parent organization, Hamptons Community Outreach, which endeavors to meet the needs of the underserved in the Hamptons. When COVID-19 hit and camp fundraising was put on hold, she reached out to communities and asked about their needs. She found all of them were in need of food. 

“In response I started fundraising for food and I then structured a restaurant delivery system that fed people in need and also helped the restaurants stay in business,” shares Marin, a licensed social worker. “We then started counseling, crisis outreach and tutoring programs to help families and children that needed help. At that point Hamptons Community Outreach was born. We had outgrown our name. We were so much more than an art camp.”

Now, Hamptons Community Outreach feeds 150 families bi-weekly and continues to provide counseling, tutoring, crisis care and other services for people in need, as well as a birthday club that provides presents and cakes for underserved children.

There are many camps to choose from in the Hamptons that meet the needs and desires of every child. How they choose to explore is ultimately up to them. Whether it be through sports, art, technology, community service, or simply having fun making slime, there is something out there for everyone.

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