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Bay Area Discovery Museum: Heather Posner

December 30, 2009

From time to time, I am interviewing Camp Directors to get their opinions on how to plan your summer so that your child has a good experience, and to learn about what makes their camp special.

I spoke today to Heather Posner, Public Programs Manager at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Heather manages the in-house educational programs, including their surprisingly large and diverse summer camp program. I had no idea that my kids could be attending superhero camp, carpentry camp or even rock star camp, so close to home.

With so many camps to choose from, any tips on how to pick the right camp for your kids?

Let me address the young kids – the 3-6 year olds.

First of all, think about what your kids are used to. This will make it easier to find a camp that they will be comfortable with.  Are they used to long days or short days? Structured activities?

Second, what is your child’s temperament? Is your child highly active or a little more mellow? A highly active child may be happier in a camp with a lot of running around outside, while a more mellow child may fit in better in a project oriented art camp.

Lastly, what is your child’s passion? Even very young kids can have passions. Does your child love super heroes, building things, art, or animals? There’s a camp for every passion, so try to find a camp that will be interesting to your child.

And call the camp! You can talk to the camp director about what your child is like, and they can help you find  the camp that your child will love.

What questions should parents ask a camp?

What’s the energy level of the camp? This will help you decide if it will be a good fit for your individual child.

For parents of very young kids (3, 4, 5 year olds) – what’s the background and experience of the camp counselors? You want to be sure that they have solid experience with young children. At the Bay Area Discovery Museum, we require both hands on experience working with young children and experience in curriculum development for young children.

Also, if your child has food allergies, be sure to ask how the camp handles food allergies.

How should parents prepare their kids for camp?

Do prepare very young kids for camp. This will help reduce issues with separation anxiety. Talk through all the details of what will happen – you will drive them to the museum, they’ll go with the teacher, and you will pick them up 3 hours later. Tell them the week before, the day before and remind them on the way there. It is really important to make sure you cover all the details – one little boy was very anxious about attending camp, until we realized that he thought he would be staying overnight. Once he knew that he’d go home at night, he was fine.

Tell us about the Bay Area Discovery Museum Camps. What makes your camps special?

We are really focused on early childhood education. The camps offer interesting curriculum that is adjusted to the kids’ interests, but really meet kids where they are developmentally.  We’re very strict with our age groupings, because we want each camp to be at the right level for the campers.

Also, our campers form really strong bonds with the counselors. Our camps are all small groups and each camp has it’s own classroom. The focused curriculum and small group environment fosters these strong bonds more than a loosely-structured/free play type camp would.

And we offer a wide variety of camps, so you are sure to find a camp of interest to your child.  We have fantastic art camps and outside camps, as well as some more unusual offerings. Our Creative Carpentry class sells out almost immediately.  We introduced Super Heroes and Heroines last year, which got a great response. In Shipwrecked camp, the instructors wear pirate clothes, and the kids and counselors talk like pirates.  We have a new camp this year, Imaginary Worlds: Witches, Wizards, Knights and Princesses, which we are really excited about. The kids will create their own production, including costumes in this week long camp.

Lastly, we do offer flexible logistical arrangements to make camp easier for parents. Almost all our camps are half day, so you can enroll your child in the morning, the afternoon, or both for a full day camp experience. We also offer extended care before the morning camp and after the afternoon camp. Your child can also stay for lunch (or come early) with both the morning and afternoon programs.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Yes! We are really excited about our new shuttle we are offering this year. A shuttle to the Headlands Institute’s Coastal Camp will be leaving from our parking lot. Now you can have one drop off for your younger children at the Discovery Museum and older children at the Coastal Camp.

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