The term "year-round school" is enough to strike fear in even the most intrepid grade schooler. Yet each summer, hundreds of students flock to area high school and college campuses. Why are these kids so anxious to go to school during the height of pool season? Soccer, basketball, lacrosse, rowing and swimming are a few of the reasons, but those merely scratch the surface of activities offered at local school's summer programs. While some of the most popular options are hosted by private institutions, camp directors insist the doors are open to anyone.
"Each year we have a good mix of students and non-students," says Carol Huckaby, director of summer programs at The Baylor School. "Our summer program provides an opportunity to experience our campus in a fun and different setting."
This month is one of the busiest for area camp sign-ups. And with more than 50 day and overnight camps within 90 miles of Chattanooga, the options seem endless. For a well-rounded experience, many parents opt for a day camp, which includes a steady stream of activities including swimming, field sports, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, nature hikes and more. Summer programs also consider current trends when designing their curriculum.
For example, Baylor will offer a yoga session this year in its day camp program, Raider Days.
Of course, not all camps are hosted by schools. The City of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department's "Kidz Kamp" offers typical day camp activities with a new wellness focus. Kids ages 6-12 can experience things like Zumba classes and laughter yoga, as well as presentations by nutritionists and local chefs.
For sporty types, there are several week-long options that can help students either learn a new sport or hone talents in golf, football, tennis, lacrosse, wrestling or even sailing. New this summer are running camps for middle school students, offered at both GPS and Baylor.
But summer camps extend beyond sports. Various art camps allow students to flex their creative muscles. GPS's "Rock Star" camp teaches second through fourth graders how to make their own music video. At McCallie, silver-tongued students might enjoy the school's debate camp, which includes a mock trial and a chance to represent a country in the United Nations.
In addition to technology camps offered at all of the leading institutions, future investigators can explore the field of forensics with "CSI: Baylor."
Across town at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, ages four through 14 can explore the wonders of the universe at UTC's Cosmic Space Quest Summer Camp. Offered through the Challenger Center, options range from half-day sessions for the youngest astronauts to week-long missions for grades fifth through eighth. Imaginations are launched into the outer reaches of space through the center's space shuttle simulator.
Older kids are given mission objectives while their fellow campers instruct them from mission control. "The idea is to teach kids about science, technology, engineering and math in a fun environment so they don't realize they're learning," says flight director Jennifer Dillard.
Local camps also boast something that every parent loves - affordability. Private camps run approximately $200 per week, with half-day programs for smaller children costing considerably less. Several camps such as GPS go to great lengths to keep prices down. "We haven't had a cost increase in three years," says program director Kim Leffew. "We want as many girls as possible to enjoy a summer camp experience, and don't want cost to be a barrier."
Among the best deals in the city is "Kidz Kamp," offered through City Parks and Recreation. For $240, kids can enjoy an entire summer of day camp fun. Whether it's science or soccer, summer camps allow kids of all ages to expand their horizons in a fun, interactive environment. And for many campers and parents, that experience is priceless.