Summer activity camps in the USA
Secondary Focus
Summer activity camps are an ever-popular way for international students to have fun and improve their language skills, says Jane Vernon Smith.

Summer activity programmes at US secondary schooIs have the advantage of offering a wide range of activities due to the facilities available, teamed with language and academic instruction. Solebury School in New Hope, PA, is reintroducing its summer English language programme for 2017, as well as launching a wide range of academic offerings for all types of learners. Stacy Freer at the school explains that students can choose from traditional classes, such as Pre-Calculus, Geometry and Chemistry, where students can gain a full-year credit in just five weeks, and shorter, two-week, credit classes, such as Photography and Global Scholars for Progress.

Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH, has also added to its summer offering this year. New academic courses include: Global Issues, Alone in the Wilderness (literature combined with outdoor survival skills), Nutrition, four History courses, and three languages (Japanese, Korean, Chinese). The school also offers English language courses, which students are encouraged to study alongside the academic programme.

New afternoon activities have been introduced to add to the fun element. Foam Archery Attack, is "a really cool hybrid form of archery, strategy and motion, similar to paintball but much safer and with more skill development involved", according to Devon Rinkin at the school. Meanwhile, disc golf is "a fun, fast-moving Frisbee game".

Capistrano Valley Christian Schools (CVCS) has been running an English language summer camp for the past few years, catering for around 100 Chinese students at junior high school level. For those with little time to spare, its sessions lasting one week - with morning English classes and afternoon activities and outings - offer five days of instruction and a weekend with a host family.

A new twist this year, notes Anna Irby, has been hiring American high school students to serve as counsellors for small groups of up to five students. As she explains, the counsellors work with students in the classroom, and also spend the afternoon with them, thus providing a greater opportunity to speak English and engage, as well as to make a friend.

St George's School in Spokane, WA, has only just begun reaching out to international students for its summer camps, reports Elizabeth Tender. Here, a variety of summer academic and athletic camps are offered, including outdoor adventure, robotics, video game programming and themed camps, such as Pirates or Harry Potter. In 2016, it welcomed its first party from China, who joined with local students for a four-week experience.

Riverside Military Academy in Gainsville, GA, runs a summer school programme called LEAD - Leadership, Education, Adventure and Development. It includes academic lessons in the classroom and applied leadership and character-development outside the classroom. Open to middle and high school students, there is a choice of academic course options, and students can earn either one full course credit or two half credits. They will also learn map-reading and hiking, water survival techniques, kayaking and canoeing, and take part in first aid training, team sports and community service.

According to spokesperson Shama Rainwater at the academy, "We have seen a high level of interest among Chinese students, with the largest number of summer enquiries. There has also been an increase of Mexican and Nigerian enquiries, and smaller numbers from various countries around the world."

Kevin Carpenter at Village School (part of Nord Anglia Education) in Houston, TX, points out that many international students attend the school's summer camp and join its boarding programme the following autumn, so the summer programme offers a great chance for them to settle into their surroundings and meet other new students. The school is hoping to expand the programme to 50 students this year and Kevin notes that more than half of their international students come from Asia.

He adds, "An added benefit to our programme is that it allows us to be able to get an understanding of what our students will need for the academic year. It's not always easy to get an understanding of a student's level from afar, but we can more accurately assess their levels of mastery and needs in the classroom."



Agent comment:


Henar Landa, Round The World Spain

"While parents are leaning towards shorter US summer camp sessions of two weeks, I feel strongly that longer camp sessions of six-to-eight weeks have the best impact both academically and socially. It can be a significant sacrifice for the family both financially and personally, but I continue to see the greatest results from the children who elect to participate in longer sessions."




Latest Trends

"There have been a few new trends emerging," according to Stacy Freer at Solebury School. "One is that students do not always want to commit a whole summer to one programme, especially if it is primarily an academic programme." As she explains, summer English language programmes at Solebury School used to be for six weeks' duration, but, with international students having different summer breaks, it was hard for them to fit in the whole six weeks. As a result, in 2017, the school is offering two three-week sessions, so students can opt to take either one or both sessions.  

At Riverside Military Academy, spokeswoman Shama Rainwater observes that there has been a rise in interest in high adventure activities. The academy has also witnessed an increased call for English language programming. She comments, "We adjusted our summer programme last year to match these trends; although we maintained our academic programme, we structured it differently to divide up the time spent in class."


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