MARCO ISLAND — Education doesn’t need to stop when the school year ends. In fact, kids are learning all the time, and the summer is no exception. Marco Island parents have a variety of day camp possibilities for their offspring, helping them learn useful and wholesome stuff, while keeping them interested and engaged.
Both the Greater Marco Family YMCA and the City of Marco Island Parks & Recreation Dept. offer comprehensive summer camp programs. Going way beyond merely warehousing the kids for the day when parents are working, the camp experiences are designed to engage, enrich and yes, educate the kids, with combinations of mental and physical activities, both on the island at their respective facilities, and at a variety of cool-sounding field trips.
“They don’t always realize they’re learning,” said Stephanie Pepper, programs and operations manager for the YMCA. “One thing we do we’re calling ‘the magic of camp,’ and we show them how to do magic tricks, and then get into the science behind them.”
Pepper is in charge of all the Y’s summer camp activities, which include off-island programs at Manatee Middle School and Parkside Elementary School in addition to the programs on Marco, held both at the Y’s headquarters campus on Sandhill Street and at Marco Island Charter Middle School.
“We will be taking the kids on field trips to Sun ’n’ Fun Lagoon, the Imaginarium, bowling, the Naples Zoo, to movies and to Del-Nor Wiggins Pass park for Pirates’ Week.” There, she said, the campers will do “scavenger hunts and survival stuff all with a pirate theme.”
Back on Marco, the children will swim every week, one or two days, combining fun recreational swimming with learning. “We do swim test the children. Our goal is to have everyone out of a lifejacket,” and be able to be safe should they fall in survival swimming.”
“We’ve added a literacy and math component, to try to bridge the gaps, that education loss that can happen in the summer,” said Pepper. Physical fitness and obesity prevention are another focus of the YMCA program. “Every week we do fitness with Miss Jen (Bristow), and we use all the Y facilities,” she said. “It’s a combination of nutrition education, healthy eating, hydration and fitness classes like step aerobics, plus sports and games.”
Leslie Drake, Charlene Garcia, and Katie Oakley direct individual sites of the Y summer camp.
The City of Marco Island is offering Camp Mackle for the fourth consecutive summer. Running from June 5 to August 16, the camp takes campers from ages 5 through 11.
They are building a host of activities around a central theme, “Welcome to the Jungle We’ve Got Fun and Games,” said Lola Dial, recreation supervisor for the city’s Parks & Recreation Dept. They will focus on different animals and wild areas each week, including primates, white rhinos, the rainforest in Borneo and newly-discovered El Mirador. There will be hands-on opportunities with exotic animals, including a five-foot python.
“It’s educational, but we also want it to be fun,” said Dial. The children will go to the nearby library once a week, to do crafts and be read to by the librarians. They will splash in the spray park, watch themed movies, and take field trips to Sun ’n’ Fun Lagoon, the Naples Botanical Gardens, Germain Arena, Bamboozles Skate Rink, Woodside Bowling and the Golden Gate Aquatic Center.
Camp Mackle is also concentrating on health, starting with good nutrition.
“Candy and sodas are not allowed in camp. We really encourage healthy lunches and snacks, especially fruit to satisfy their sweet cravings. We try not to send them home sugared up,” said Dial. “It can be tough on parents at the end of a long day if the kids have too much sugar, and we want to prolong our help to the parents even after the kids have left our camp.”
The city also offers a variety of special enrichment camps, covering activities from jewelry making, cartooning, roller hockey, to a junior police/fire academy and even cupcake baking. These can be combined with the Camp Mackle activities, with the city providing transportation to and from the sites of the added activities.
Another parks & rec.-sponsored option is the city’s popular tennis camp, with “Mr. Tennis,” Wayne Clark. In addition to mastering the strokes, rules and strategy of traditional tennis, campers in the City Kids Summer Juniors Tennis Program get to try games including scramble, jail, skyball, tennis baseball, and Pickleball, “the fastest growing sport in the country,” according to Clark. Once they’re thoroughly heated up, the kids go into the air conditioning for Wallyball in the racquetball room at the city’s racquet center.
Parents can sign up for all these options by the day, by the week, or for the entire summer.
For more information on the City of Marco Island programs, call Mackle Park at (239) 642-0575 or go online to www.cityof marcoisland.com.
For complete information on the YMCA’s offerings, call the Y at (239) 394-3144 or surf over to www.marcoislandymca.org.