By Krista Wilson
Listen Up Lansing Staff Writer
Vernon Miller, Lansing resident and dad of two said his 6-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter participate in different programs through the Lansing Parks and Recreation camps.
“It really is amazing to see how much my kids learn through activities that they find fun, while also gaining some type of learning experience,” said Miller.
They are not alone, as the Lansing area is offering a number of programs to keep kids from having a dull summer.
“We all remember our summers growing up and the overnight summer camps are made to expose kids to things they may not usually do, like canoeing or kayaking on the river,” said Brett Kaschinske, Director of Parks and Rec of Lansing. “That’s what our programming is about, giving new opportunities.”
Jason Helman, Senior Program Director of Westside Community YMCA said, “The summer programs at YMCA give the youth an opportunity to achieve new milestones in their lives, build friendships, and learn core values.”
Brian Pingel, associate professor of Youth Studies at North Central University in Minnesota said, “Summer camp can be an absolute benefit to kids when it is relational-based and they have access to positive mentors.”
Helman said the YMCA offers education-based programs, sports camps, and even a cooking program to help students learn how to cook.
The Y averages about 180 kids a week during the 12-week summer program and over the last two years they have seen a lot of growth in the number of participants, said Helman.
The Westside Community YMCA is located at 3700 Old Lansing Road in Lansing.
Humane Educator of the Capital Area Humane Society, Lindsay Daly-Post said, “We always think of academic needs when it comes to children but our program gives them a chance to think outside of themselves.”
“One program that we offer teaches older kids how to do stitches on dogs using fake animals and we also teach them how to do CPR,” said Daly-Post. “The children really benefit from getting in touch with their emotional-self to care for the animals.”
“We are actually providing the next generation of animal caregivers and adopters the necessary tools of animal care that will last them a lifetime,” said Daly-Post.
The Capital Area Humane Society, located at 7095 W. Grand River Ave. in Lansing offers nine different camps for kids ages four to 16.
Program Director of Lansing’s Educational Child Care Center, Betsy Clinton said, “Our programs are education-based but fun to keep the children interested.”
“Every week we have a different theme, such as mystery week or science week where the students can learn something new in a fun way, while also gaining useful skills,” said Clinton.
EC3 is located at 1715 W. Main St. in Lansing and the programming is for kindergarteners up to fourth graders.
Yu-Chen Chen, program director of Language and Culture Summer Camp at Michigan State University said, “Our camp teaches kids k-12 the Chinese language and culture through different activities.”
Chen said the students learn the culture through activities like music, calligraphy, and doing family trees with Chinese titles.
“The program helps students by giving them a chance to interact with people from another culture, which may be something that is new to them,” said Chen.
“Over the three-week day-camp program, we have about 200 students of all ages participate,” said Chen.
The Language and Culture Summer Camp is located at 620 Farm Lane in East Lansing.
Zach Constan, coordinator of the Physics of Atomic Nuclei camp, a summer program at Michigan State University said, “Once students leave the PAN program they are nine to ten times more likely to major in a science field or pursuit a science-related career.”
Constan said the students are assessed at the end of the program because “we’re always interested in how much of an impact we have made on them.”
“This camp lasts only a week and we accept 24 high-school students, half girls and half boys. They do different science experiments and get trained on science equipment,” said Constan.
The 24 students live on campus during their week at camp and conduct experiments in the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory located at 640 S. Shaw Lane in
Clark University Associate Professor of Community Development and Planning, Laurie Ross said, “On one level, summer programming for the youth keeps them busy but it also keeps them safe while doing something productive.”
“Older kids often want to work and one of our programs here in Massachusetts give teens an employment opportunity where we reach out to different businesses to employ them. The business pays half of their check while our program pays the other half,” said Ross.
This type of employment program is very beneficial to teens because it keeps money in their pockets and also gives them a productive schedule, said Ross.
Kaschinske said that teens in the Parks and Recreation program have access to an opportunity where they can learn about work experience and can get hired when they turn 18 to work in the camp.
Marie Watkins, Ph.D., professor of Community Youth and Development at Nazareth College in New York said that the types of programs available to youth vary by community based upon the available funding.
“Young people may not be a priority to the community if the budget for it isn’t there,” said Watkins.
“Most of the summer camp funding comes from tax dollars, but it doesn’t cover everything,” said Kaschinske. “A federal grant helps pay for camp in eligible areas, and the rest is covered by what we charge for kids to participate.”
Perhaps parents benefit from summer programs, too.
Miller said, “It’s really nice to have somewhere safe my children can go while I am busy because thats what every parent’s concern is, safety.”
“When I worked for the Boys and Girls Club, parents were relieved to have a well-supervised program that was enriching for the children,” said Watkins.
“Parents should be able to look at summer programs as more than a day care for their kids, but as a chance for their kids to gain a sense of identity and build confidence,” said Pingel.
Miller said his children participate in different sports camps but they also like the animal and robot camps that are offered because they learn information that is not presented to them in a text book.
Summer programs help children’s development because they feel “ a sense of belonging, a sense of power, and a sense of safety,” Watkins said.
“I think it’s great that we have these programs that kids can join and stay active on some level, even if they do stay up until 2 a.m. watching movies during the summer,” said Miller.