UHart Summer Camp Blends Academics and Recreation
For many campers, it may sound too good to be true: a summer day camp where they decide what hobbies to learn, sports to play, or activities to join.
It becomes a little easier to believe once you discover the camp is run by the University of Hartford, in partnership with the neighboring Watkinson School, and held on both campuses.
It’s called The Summer Place, and it’s celebrating its 40th year this summer. There are a few separate group components that, all told, serve youngsters from kindergarten through the end of high school. Limited spots are still available for this summer, so families are encouraged to enroll today.
“Whether a camper has a passion for flying drones, outdoor cooking, or archery, chances are we have a class for it,” says Summer Place Recreation Director Anthony Weber. “In addition to offering courses and sports, Summer Place also strives to form lifelong relationships between all campers and the staff.”
In fact, Weber adds, many teens and adults who currently work at The Summer Place began as campers, underscoring the legacy of camaraderie and esprit de corps fostered at this unique summer day camp.
Between 250 and 300 campers attend during each of the three two-week sessions, between June 27 and August 5. In addition to the positive and encouraging atmosphere, what truly engages most of the youngsters is the availability of 70 specialized courses and 20 separate sports, wellness, and exercise activities, with up to 50 counselors and 30 course instructors. Activities are run by certified teachers or creative professionals.
The assortment of courses and workshops campers can choose is one the camp’s most impressive features. It includes woodworking, STEM activities, theater, culinary arts, wilderness and nature observations, Red Cross swim instruction, and dozens of others. Activities that require indoor instruction are held in a variety of campus classrooms, art and television studios, computer labs, theaters, gyms, and other special-interest UHart and Watkinson facilities, which adds a further element of distinction to The Summer Place.
Among the group divisions are the regular Summer Place camp for children entering grades one through nine; Kinderplace and Li’l Place, both of which put an emphasis on developmental learning experiences for children entering preschool and kindergarten; and Summer Place Leaders in Training, or SPLIT, which helps prepare 10th- through 12th-graders to become tomorrow’s Summer Place counselors.
There is a health-care team available with an on-site nurse and on-call physician. Free transportation is available from several convenient stops throughout Greater Hartford.
Josh Chlebowski is one of the course leaders who rose through the ranks. He teaches propulsion and water rocketry, and enjoys his role as much as the campers enjoy learning from him.
“Everyone at Summer Place is welcoming and encouraging,” says Chlebowski. “We are all willing to do whatever we can to ensure that our campers have a memorable experience. It’s a positive space for growth, learning—and most of all, fun.” The 22-year-old began as a camper 10 years ago and started working as a counselor in 2016, before transitioning to course instructor last summer.
As Chlebowski and other counselors readily and proudly acknowledge, all staff members share several important attributes, such as copious amounts of patience, compassion, and enthusiasm. Perhaps the two campus settings help spark and maintain those qualities. Or perhaps those are the qualities that simply fulfill the mission and vision initiated by the camp’s founders 40 years ago—and by the directors since.
More details about Summer Place are available at hartford.edu/summerplace or by calling 860.768.4432.