Summer camps during COVID-19: What’s open in Darien
Summer is almost here and for many Darien families with children, that means camp.
Here’s a rundown of some of the programs that are being offered in town this summer and the precautions that each are taking in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Each of the summer camps in the state of Connecticut are required to adhere to the guidelines provided in the governor’s directives for the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC). This can be viewed here.
The Darien YMCA camp will run from June 22 to Aug. 14.
The YMCA’s preschool, gymnastics, and school-aged camp programs will be held outdoors at Hindley Elementary School, 10 Nearwater Lane. To register, visit darien-ymca.org.
“We have space inside Hindley School as well as outside space — a combination of both,” said Suzanne Richards, school age camp director.
Activities will include arts and crafts, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), and sports.
Detailed social distancing and hygiene measures that are being taken can be found on the YMCA’s website. They include:
Sizes of nine or 10 campers per group, with one to two staff members.
Daily health screening at drop-off consist of a temperature check, as well as health questions and general observations.
All staff will be required to wear masks during indoor activities, as well as outdoors when six feet social distancing isn’t possible. Masks for campers is encouraged, but optional.
No large group activities where the whole camp is involved.
While there will be no field trips this summer, the YMCA is adding a fitness component and mindfulness curriculum to its program.
The fitness component may include yoga, Zumba and other activities that are individual and non-contact, according to Richards.
Jessica Van Sciver, the YMCA’s health and fitness director, said, “Healthy growth and development is just a couple of the benefits your child will receive by engaging in an active lifestyle. Instilling a foundation of physical activity is great for your kid’s mind and body, as it improves self-esteem, focus and concentration.”
The mindfulness curriculum consists of breathing activities, “and other thoughtful activities they can do in their group, and talk about what’s happening in the world,” Richards said, adding campers can release any tension they may have, as well as help their peers do so as well.
“We feel right now with everything going on, that children are stressed,” she continued. “It’s been a trying time for a lot of kids to just be able to take time for themselves.”
According to Richards, “Camp is an important experience for every child to try new things, make new friends, and be a kid. Now, more than ever, this is what children need.”
She added that the YMCA staff will provide “the safest environment they can so children can have that experience and be with their friends in a responsible way.”
Darien Nature Center
The Darien Nature Center, 120 Brookside Road, is holding camp from June 29 through Aug. 7. It will be an all outdoor camp. To register, visit dariennaturecenter.org.
The DNA is starting the process of re-enrolling its currently enrolled families in its camp.
“The key difference in the camp this summer,” according to executive director Leila Wetmore, “is reducing the number of campers we’ll host every day from about 75 to 32.”
The camp will be held at Cherry Lane Park, “so we have many acres to explore or have fun with,” she said.
However, there will be one dedicated indoor, air conditioned space available to each camp group in case of either excessive heat or thunder and lightening.
Among the activities campers will experience include ponding (scooping and exploring the life of a pond), gardening, bug hunting, tree climbing, frog catching, log rolling and puddle jumping.
“We investigate science topics including animal flight, metamorphosis, pollination, adaptations and many more,” said Emily Ciffone, program director. “Nature is both our classroom and our playground.”
Social distancing and hygiene measures in light of the pandemic that will be instituted at the camp include:
Counselors are required to wear masks or plastic face shields at all times at all time unless they’re outside with a six-foot radius around them.
Campers, ages 4 to 9, will not be required to wear masks.
Very frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing, and health checks every morning. These include a temperature check and questions to parents to learn if there was exposure to the virus in the family.
No more than eight campers in a group, as well as fewer groups.
Siblings who are close in age will be kept together in the same group to minimize exposure.
“We have three counselors per group on average, so every child gets personal attention,” Wetmore said.
“In most ways, this summer is like all others at the Nature Center — lots of time spent outdoors in our woods, at the pond, and exploring all of Cherry Lawn Park,” said Emily Ciffone, program director. “With two-week sessions and smaller groups, our campers will build friendships, bond with counselors and just enjoy the wonders of nature.”
Darien Arts Center
The Darien Arts Center, 2 Renshaw Road, will be offering summer virtual dance and martial arts classes, and virtual private music lessons for all ages from June 22 to Aug. 7. Register at darienarts.org.
Four levels of ballet classes are offered from grades 1 to 7.
The beginning level class explores the primary elements of classical ballet: posture, positions of feet, arms, head, and qualities of movement, while incorporating creative play.
Advanced ballet classes concentrate on proper alignment and improving technique.
Beginning in sixth grade, children can also take a lyrical class, which is a dance form that fuses modern dance, jazz, and ballet.
Kids Open Martial Arts, which is for all levels, will concentrate on rank appropriate material while working on effort, respect and self-control.
Hip Hop Kids, for grades 3 to 5, and Middle/High School Hip Hop both begin with a short warm-up, then move onto learning the newest moves in hip-hop dancing.
Private music lessons through Zoom will also be offered at DAC.
“Students from their own home are advancing with virtual private music lessons and look forward to meeting their teachers on Zoom, knowing that they can’t get to the Darien Arts Center at this time,” said Amy Allen, executive director. “This is a benefit until they can return.”
Make-Modern Crafting Studio
Erika Allen, owner of Make-Modern Crafting Studio, is offering weeklong summer camp sessions from June 22 to Aug. 21 for children in grades 2 to 10. To register, visit make-modern.com. The studio is at 1985 Boston Post Road.
Each week is dedicated to a different theme, and all crafts made during that week pertains to the theme. Details of each theme can be found on the website.
COVID-19 precautions include:
Both campers and staff are required to wear a mask. They’ll have their temperature taken when they come in to camp.
There will also be frequent hand sanitizing.
Campers will be spread out over three tables, with one teacher giving instruction per table.
When the children first come in to camp, their very first project will be to make a mask.
“They can wear that mask,” Allen said. “Kids are going to be keener to wear a mask if they picked up the materials to make it.”
Camp themes include Modern Art, where campers will explore representation, minimalism and symmetry.
“All of the craft projects will tie around the theory of modern art,” Allen said. “I’d love to get them more excited about abstract shapes because they’ll be able to execute that really well.”
In another week, called Discover Amazing Women Artists, “every day, we are looking at a different female artist, and the projects are influenced by the work of that artist,” she said.
Campers will make a flower headband influenced by Frida Kahlo; build a polka dot playhouse influenced by Yayoi Kusama; weave impressionist fibers inspired by Mary Cassatt; and stitch flowers by Georgia O’Keefe and more.
Allen, who has a Ph.D. in rhetoric, said she has “done a fair amount of writing on aesthetics.
“I’m a student of textiles and folk art and modernism,” she said.
During the week of “Celebrate Summer,” campers will craft “all the items they’d want for summer” including a towel that turns into a tote bag, a beach cover-up, custom flip-flops, hair scrunchies, and a summer journal, according to Allen.
“All of this is stuff they would make and want to wear right away,” Allen added.