Editor's note: While we are currently in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, it is our fervent hope that the crisis will come to an end very soon and life will be able to return to a sense of normalcy. At press time, it was unclear what the summer would bring, and whether camps will be able to open their doors. The following specialty camps are hoping to run their programs, and they ask you to be patient with them during this time. Please contact the camps directly for more information.
Summer is fast approaching and camp registration deadlines are right around the corner. While day camps are great for active children, specialty camps, which focus on one area of interest, might be a better fit for a child who expresses a passion for one particular subject, such as drama, fine art, sports or science. Specialty camps are held for one or two weeks, which is also helpful for parents looking to keep kids active before and after traditional day-camp schedules. Here is a quick rundown of some specialty camps that are offered in the northern and central New Jersey.
If your child is looking for a fine arts/humanities summer experience, Art For Learning, based in Englewood, provides a wide range of hands-on art and fashion lessons for children between second and tenth grade. Sheryl Intrator Urman, the camp director, has divided the camp experience into separate art and fashion tracks tailored to each age group. Campers in the art track can learn about impressionism, modern art, or the Victorian period and create paintings or craft projects, such as sewing, embroidering or flower pressing, that reflect the artwork they have seen. Once they’ve been armed with a healthy dose of art history, campers then take trips to various art museums in New York City, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the MOMA and The Guggenheim Museum. They also picnic for lunch in Central Park and work on their canvas paintings. Campers learning about Gothic art get to visit the Cloisters uptown to see such paintings for themselves. Another group will take a trip to The Hermitage, a 14-room Gothic revival house in Ho-Ho-Kus, to see for themselves the different architecture and fashions that were popular at the time.
Campers can also take a class about the Jewish immigrant experience, where they learn what it was like to be an immigrant in the early 1900s. They are then able to trace their own genealogies and create a scrapbook outlining their family histories.
“I want to give my campers a more well-rounded feeling of the world,” Urman said. “What we learn might go beyond what the children are otherwise exposed to in school, and it leaves a lasting impression on them.”
For those interested in fashion, Urman, gives campers a taste of the fashion industry by teaching them how to draw and dress a figure with correct proportions. Through her connections in the city, Urman takes her campers to SoHo where they speak to store managers about how they market their clothing to different demographics and what trends are in or out for the season. Scents are also a big theme in fashion, and campers get to experiment and mix their own perfumes, which they bring home with them at the end of the summer.
By the end of each program campers know more about art history or fashion trends. Most importantly, however, they get to take home their own works inspired by world famous artists, long walks through the city’s enchanting art museums and the natural beauty of summer blooming around them.
The camp runs from June 29 to Aug. 31. Registration is $480 per week and includes transportation,museum admissions and most art supplies. The deadline to register is April 30. For more program information, visit www.artforlearning.com or email [email protected]
For children interested in drama, Teaneck’s Black Box Studios will be hosting its second annual Shakespeare summer experience. The acting program is targeted toward teens (ages 16 to 19) looking to gain experience working with professional actors and who are interested in delving deep into Shakespeare’s works. Campers can play ensemble roles in the studio’s Shakespeare in the Park series and will rehearse and perform a monologue at an end-of-summer showcase. Rehearsals begin in June and performances will take place throughout July and August. The participation fee is $750 and participants will also be asked to sell $250 of ads and boosters. For more registration info, contact [email protected]
The Neal Klatskin Summer Camps (NKSC), based at the JCC on the Palisades, also offer a drama specialty camp, Broadway Showtime, for children interested in theater. There are two two-week sessions that are available for third through ninth graders. During the program, campers will rehearse under experienced directors and perform mini-productions of The Little Mermaid (June 22 to July 3) and Legally Blonde (July 13 to 24).
NKSC offers other arts specialty camps, such as its dance-intensive camp for kids from third to ninth grade, which runs from Aug. 3 to 14. Campers will learn about a different style of dance (jazz, hip-hop and more) each day, and will prepare for a performance at the end of their two weeks. There are also other dance camps that run in August for younger children, such as Little Dancers Camp (for 3 to 5 year olds), and Dancer’s Workshop (for 6 to 9 year olds).
For children interested in sports, NKSC also offers three different sports specialty camps. Sports Camp Plus, for third through eighth graders, runs from June 22 to Aug. 14 and allows campers to try a different sport each week such as soccer, golf, football, swim and volleyball. For third through eighth graders who want to focus on one particular sport, NKSC offers a basketball intensive camp that runs from June 22 to July 17. Basketball coaches train players on flexibility and court fundamentals. Campers will also get to participate in tournaments against each other. NKSC also offers a tennis intensive camp for the same age groups that runs from July 20 to Aug. 14. The program includes special guests, field trips, competitions and more.
NKSC’s science camp for third through sixth graders runs from June 22 to July 31 and lets campers conduct hands-on experiments that include everything from the classic Coke and Mentos experiment, to making model rockets and working drones. NKSC’s Big Idea High Tech camp, for third through ninth graders, explores robotics, 3D modeling, coding, film production fashion and more. The courses are taught by Israeli instructors 21 and older who have been trained in a specific technical skill. This camp offers two-week sessions beginning on June 22, July 6, July 20, Aug 3.
All of NKSC’s camps are co-ed, and offer a balance of regular day-camp activities as well. Camps are all inclusive—swimming, towel service, kosher snacks and lunch, extended care and busing are available. NKSC also offers inclusion options for children who are in need of extra assistance at camp. “We allow campers to learn more about their specific interests,” said Aaron Atlas NKSC’s youth and camping engagement director. “Our specialty camps are smaller in size than our traditional camps,” which Atlas said helps each camper to get the most of the experience.
Camp is $610 per week. Parents can register their children on a week-by-week basis, and JCC members save $55 a week. There is no deadline to register, but spots fill quickly. The camp is also offering a $25 per week discount through April 1. Families with children attending any of NKSC’s camps might be eligible for a summer membership to the JCC. For more information, please visit jccotp.org.
Teki Camp, located at the JCC Metrowest, is a nine-week program (June 29 to Aug. 28) that introduces campers from second to tenth grade to different areas in technology. Each week, campers delve deep into different subjects such as robotics, computer coding and video gaming. They’ll learn how drones are built and how they are used in the real world. They’ll learn photography and videography, and how to use green screens in order to make claymation and other video projects. Campers will come home with a flash drive full of projects and a set of skills that they can use to their advantage throughout academic futures. Kids also get a traditional camp experience complete with field trips (the Bronx Zoo, the Liberty Science Center), swimming, arts and crafts, color war and lots of time outside.
“The program really sparks their curiosity and the opportunity for different career paths,” said Howard Weinrib, the camp’s director. “Some kids like being behind the camera, others like being in front of it—you sense that and help steer them in a professional manner, in a way that helps them think about their future goals.”
Campers learn under certified teachers, and junior counselors who have gone through the program and who now attend top notch schools, Weinrib explained. The camp has been around for more than 15 years, and is one of the first STEAM programs in the state. Registration is $525 for JCC members, and $575 per week for guests. A special rate for one week only is $420 for members and $460 for guests. Those who register before March 13 will be eligible for last year’s camp rates. For more information visit https://jccmetrowest.org.
For those looking for a completely unplugged summer experience, Camp Grow Torah, which runs from Aug. 24 to 28, takes place entirely on a farm in New City’s Rockland Farm Alliance. Campers spend most of their time outside learning about life on a farm. They get to collect eggs and plant new crops, learn about composting, sustainability and how to connect with the nature around them. Every morning campers daven at a different spot on the farm, whether it be under the shade of a tree, the educational garden or in a teepee. Yosef Gillers, the camp’s director, said davening outside gives the children an opportunity to connect with Hashem’s creations.
“When we get to shema and shemoneh esrei, we try to pause and get the kids to appreciate how beautiful the world around us is,” Gillers said. “They are immersed in nature, and have a very meditative shacharit.”
In between their different farm tasks, campers get to eat freshly made snacks from the ingredients around them. They collect tomato, basil and other herbs to make fresh salsa or pesto, they learn how to make their own pickles and they’ll make fresh salads with vegetables from the garden. They also get to tie dye their clothes with natural ingredients, such as onion skin and avocado pits, make their own soaps and do other arts and crafts. At the end of each day, the campers gather around for silent journaling where they reflect on all they’ve learned.
All of their lessons are tied into Torah, whether they are learning about tza’ar ba’alei chayim, ba’al tashlich or tzedakah—campers donate the farm’s harvest to a local food bank at the end of the summer. By the end of camp Gillers hopes that the children are more mindful of where their food comes from, how to eat well and how intertwined Torah and nature really are.
“The campers can really appreciate the brachot they make and the bounty around them,” Gillers said. “Being immersed in nature does not have to be separate from Judaism. The next generation can feel equally connected to both.”
The camp accepts children ages 5 to 10. Registration is $400. To register or to learn more, visit www.growtorah.org.
Camp KIDchen, a branch of by-CRave, also offers its campers a chance to grow more mindful about their eating habits. The camp, which is open to girls from fourth to seventh grade, teaches home cooking skills and the importance of healthy habits.
Campers learn to make dishes for all three meals, including breads, muffins, chili, summer vegetable soups, spreads and dips, sushi, whole-wheat pasta and more. They work primarily with vegetarian food (no meat) but will occasionally incorporate fish into their dishes. All of the food is naturally sweetened with no refined sugars, and is locally grown—campers visit a local farmer’s market for the day’s ingredients.
The campers are split into two groups of 20 (at maximum capacity) depending on skill and comfort level, but both groups usually advance at a similar pace, explained one of Camp KIDchen’s partners, Rhonda Klapper, who is a certified health counselor. All campers are taught how to use knives and other kitchen utensils safely and properly.
The camp is based in the Teaneck homes of Klapper and her business partner Chaviva Weinblatt. “The campers take home recipes and better eating choices,” Klapper said. “They love their visits to the farmer’s market. We try to include some spontaneity there—if they find kale, we grab some to bring back home to make kale chips. They get to be creative.”
Activities that excite the campers most include the opportunity to play the camp’s version of the show Chopped where they are broken up into teams and given ingredients to create certain meals before their time runs out. Weinblut also runs exercise programs that keep the campers active and relaxation exercises to encourage body movement. The girls are able to write down and bring home a collection of their favorite recipes from the summer, as well as decorated aprons, water bottles, mason jars and other swag.
The camp runs from June 22 to 26, June 29 to July 3, July 6 to 10, July 13 to 17, Aug. 3 to 7, Aug. 10 to 14 and August 24 to 28. Registration is $450 per week. To register, or for more information, visit www.by-crave.com or email [email protected]
By Elizabeth Zakaim