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Camp Galileo: Glen Tripp

March 1, 2010

From time to time, I conduct interviews of camp directors to get their advice for parents. Last week, I spoke to Glen Tripp, Founder of Camp Galileo.  Camp Galileo is the largest day camp operation in the Bay Area and has an outstanding reputation. I’m personally thankful to Glen, as he encouraged me to pursue Sign Up For Camp, when it was just an idea.  He’s a very thoughtful person, so I was very interested to get his take on summer camps.

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

  • I believe summer offers an incredible opportunity to round out whatever your child is receiving during the school year. Kids in California go to school 180 days per year, and a 10-week summer is a very significant chunk of time when compared to that. I would start by thinking about what your child is getting out of the school year, and then consider what’s missing. A deeper connection to nature? An opportunity to forge creative problem solving skills that build on the core academic subjects of the school year? Determine what you think matters in your child’s development, and view summer as a chance to fill in the missing pieces.
  • Once you have an idea of the subject matter, look for these things: 1) Adult supervision that both keeps your kids safe and inspire them in the subject matter. 2) A ratio of no more than 10 kids per staff member (8 is better).  3) Division of kids into age groups that span no more than 2-3 years. 4) Evidence that the curriculum is well developed and differentiated based on age.  And 5) A Director who is and experience, passionate, and organized leader. The director will set the expectations for the entire staff.

What questions should parents ask a camp?

  • What is your program trying to accomplish with children?
  • Who is the director? How many years have they been directing the camp? What does he/she look for in the staff he/she hires?
  • Who is going to be working directly with my child?  What is their education level? How are they trained?
  • How do you develop your curriculum? What are the learning objectives of the program?
  • Do high school students have direct supervisory responsibility for campers?
  • What are the age groupings and camper:staff ratios?

How should parents prepare their kids for camp?

  • Set your kids up for success by not signing them up for too many different camps.  Seek out programs that offer consistency in excellent adult supervision, accompanies by a variety of activities and themes. Minimize transitions in location, staff, and fellow campers
  • Find out ahead of time what the first day check in scene will be like. Then describe it to your child ahead of time so they know what it will be like. Tell them ahead of time that you’re going to be leaving as soon as the hand-off to the counselor is made, and that they have your phone number if they ever need to reach you. You want to avoid a lengthy separation process on the first day. In my experience the campers almost always do fine once the parent leaves (even though I know this can be hard!)
  • Describe what the day is going to be like.
  • Pack a familiar lunch.

The summer is long, and many kids are in 6 – 10 sessions of camp. Any tips on how to prevent camp burnout?

  • The number one thing you can do is limit your child to 2 to 3 camp providers for the entire summer, and attend each one for multiple weeks.  Look for consistency in adult supervision and camper groups, coupled with variety of activities. Quality programs train their staff members on how to deal with the “arch of the summer experience”, and variety of program keeps it interesting.
  • Mix it up with friends.  If your child goes to camp with a buddy for the first few weeks of the summer, switch it up with a different friend the next few weeks.
  • On Sunday night, talk with your child about his or her goals for the coming week.
  • Team up with the Director and the counselors working directly with your child. The staff can do a lot to add variety to a child’s experience. If you notice a child’s enthusiasm waning, talk with the staff.

Any last tips for parents?

  • I’ve said it above, but it’s worth mentioning again: Focus as much on who the people will be working with your child as you do the content.  No matter what the program the people will drive what your child takes away from the experience.

Lastly, please tell us what’s special about Camp Galileo and Galileo Summer Quest?

  • First, we hire exceptional people.  Fewer than 8% of applicants receive job offers from us, which is extremely selective in the day camp world.  And when those people join us they become enveloped by an incredible culture of commitment, enthusiasm, excellence that you will immediately sense as a camper or parent. Our staff members are not just looking for a summer job. They consider themselves to be part of a movement to inspire a new generation of innovators and creative problem solvers.
  • Second, we design a special curriculum in partnership with organizations like the de Young Museum and The Tech Museum of Innovation. A team of more than 15 curriculum developers works all year to come up with a program that is fun, age appropriate, and educational. Kids who experience Galileo programs over multiple years will walk away equipped with a toolkit that allows them to engage in what we call Creative Action. In other words, they will view the world as something that they can act on, and they will know how to work with others to innovate.
  • Third, the great people and curriculum come together and create a joy-filled learning community. Traditions, opening ceremonies, all-camp games, costumes, chants and cheers. There’s so much fun and enthusiasm that kids hardly realize that they’ve just learned the difference between kinetic and potential energy. This is how learning should feel.

See the current Camp Galileo and Galileo Summer Quest schedules and recent parent reviews.

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