Rachel Christmas Derrick, whose thoughtful piece on Affirmative Action you read on GCP a few weeks ago (“The Myths and Realities of Affirmative Action”, April 1, 2013) is back with recommendations for wonderful summer camp experiences that her children (and she) have enjoyed.

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Looking for an excellent summer camp or travel program? Consider the following, all of which my family has loved:

Independent Lake Camp

My daughter adored this sleepaway camp for five years, starting when she was ten. You can choose the number of weeks your child stays, from two to nine weeks (for kids aged 6 to 17). A sprawling camp along a beautiful lake in Orson, PA (Pocono Mountains), ILC offers the usual swimming (lake or pool), sports, horseback riding, fine arts, drama, music, hiking, camping, etc. But the highlights of this camp are twofold:
1) the circus program (my daughter is now an expert flying trapeze artist–without lines!) in which kids learn everything from riding unicycles and juggling to clowning and tightrope walking
2) the multicultural, multi-geographical staff and campers: The Magic teacher might be a black man from England. A counselor might be a Chinese woman from Australia. Your child might be able to practice French or Spanish with bunkmates from Paris or Caracas–or compare notes on city life with fellow campers from Philly and LA.

Institute for Spanish Language Studies
When my daughter was 14, she lived with a family in Costa Rica, studied Spanish, and volunteered at an orphanage and a senior center, as part of the community service camp. The nice thing about the teen program in Costa Rica is that kids can select one-week increments, so, for instance, they could spend a week in the community service camp, a week in the surf camp, and in week at the travel camp. Or they could spend three or four weeks in one camp. The students in the different camps all get together on weekends for white water rafting, hiking, etc. Cooking and dance classes are among evening activities.

The Experiment in International Living
One of the most memorable experiences of my life was living with a family in a small red-dirt-road town in Mexico, studying Spanish, and traveling around the country–when I was 15 (a couple of years ago). This summer, my 15-year-old daughter is doing the Peru program: She’ll be living with a family in an Afro-Peruvian, Indo-Peruvian area, performing community service, and studying Spanish. The Experiment has a variety of other high school student programs in the Americas as well as in Africa, Asia, and Europe, from language study (French, Italian, Japanese) and eco-adventure to culinary exploration and arts immersion.

And if you live in or close to New York City:

Day Camp in the Park

In peaceful Harriman State Park, this lakeside camp has snagged my son with all kinds of sports, water activities, art, drama, theater, and nature (deer hang out under the main building, which is on stilts). The rustic waterfront setting and the cabins make it feel like a sleepaway camp–but every day the kids get DOOR-TO-DOOR transportation between home and the camp, about 45 minutes from Manhattan!

Please let me know if you’re planning to apply to any of these programs or camps!

Rachel Christmas Derrick

As we contemplate the myriad of summer camp options available for our children it is very helpful to read these glowing recommendations. If you haven’t signed up your son or daughter for a summer program yet, you should consider these. Thanks so much Rachel!