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Destination Science Summer Camp: Kathy Heraghty

May 17, 2010

From time to time, I conduct interviews with camp directors to collect advice for parents looking for unique experiences for their kids.  I recently spoke with Kathy Heraghty at Destination Science regarding their popular science camps that run in California and Florida.  Destination Science is now in its 11th year of running summer camps.

There are so many summer camps. Any tips on how to choose the right camp for your kids?

Summer is a great opportunity to try new things and expand your children’s comprehension of the world around them.  And it is a good time to fill in the missing gaps from our year-round school education. Find areas of interest that your child has, and try to balance your child’s interests with what you want your child to get out of the summer.  Science tends to be underrepresented during the school year, so summer is a good time to build in this area.

Also, really look at the staff. Quality staff is very important, and you want the staff to be professionals that work with youth in the non-summer months.

What questions should parents ask a camp before enrolling, especially a science camp?

  • What outcome is the camp working to achieve?
  • What activities will they use to achieve this outcome?
  • What can I expect that my child will get out of the camp?
  • What is the background and training of the staff?
  • What is the daily schedule? Is there enough diversity of activities to keep the kids interested?

Any tips on how to prepare your child for camp?

  • Try to have a calm morning before camp. A good night’s sleep and a good breakfast will prepare your camper to embrace the new situation.
  • Have a good lunch packed – one that your child will look forward to eating.
  • If possible, have a buddy at camp, especially if it’s your child’s first camp experience.
  • Be as enthusiastic as possible.

The summer is long, and many kids will attend 6 – 10 sessions of camp. Any tips on how parents can help prevent camp burn-out?

  • Many camps offer multiple thematic weeks. Consider keeping your child in one program for several weeks rather than moving between camps. This provides some stability for the kids, as they are at one location and with one group of counselors. Different themes keeps it interesting and fresh to the camper.
  • Go through the camp schedule with your child ahead of time and before camp. They will have a better sense of how their day will go and allow them to feel more in control of the camp experience.

Any other tips for parents?

Yes. Talk with your child after the first day of camp. Make sure that they can verbalize their needs. Sometimes a child is not good at letting you know if they are not happy at a camp. But if you’re able to find out that they aren’t thrilled with camp, the camp can usually fix the situation. Camp counselors truly want their kids to have a great experience.

Lastly, please tell us what is special about Destination Science.

Science, science, science! We are dedicated to increasing kids’ confidence in science. We immerse the kids in science, and we make it really fun. We are a very intentional camp and have put a lot of thought into our activities and program.

We really pride ourselves on our very unique projects and materials and the quality of our staff. And we really believe in our character, creativity and confidence program.

Our projects truly stand out. We have some tried and true, because even though we’ve done them for a long time and other camps do them as well, they are really good projects that the kids love and learn a lot from. But we also make a great effort to find new and unusual projects. We go to trade shows and we work with other organizations to develop projects specifically for our camps. For example, we found a fabulous solar vehicle that we are able to get a toymaker to prototype and customize.  It exposed the gears and engine parts, yet was very kid-friendly and attractive. It’s been a huge hit at the camps.

Also, every day, the children work on projects that they will bring home. They spend a few minutes at the end of each day teaching each other about what they did.  And we ask them to teach their parents about the project also. Having to teach someone else what you did really solidifies the learning.

In addition to the projects, our staff is extremely high quality. Our camp really appeals naturally to elementary school teachers and they enjoy working with the kids in a different way. We believe that it is important for camp staff to be dedicated to working with kids during the regular school year as well. The experience shows.

Lastly, we are very proud of our character, creativity and confidence program. We believe that character development in children is very important. We made a very intentional decision six years ago to add this curriculum to our program. The kids learn the pillars of character development and give each other character beads. It’s very with the children and we think it’s very formative.

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