Summer Fun

School is out. Trees are in flower. Time for the slow easy days of summer. But wait. There is a hum, a buzz, a roar around here. The energy level is rising, pulsing, really vibrating. What’s going on? Ah, it’s summer camps again at YSI.

Things really get going in January, building in a gradual crescendo to June. Decisions are made about what camps to offer and where to offer them. There are always so many more ideas than time. In March camp registration starts. Parents agonize over whether their child will go for Bugology, Phunky Physics, Jurassic Giants, or Indian Summer. Startled into realizing school will be out soon, they start thinking about vacation plans. Choices are made. Camps start to fill.

Teachers are hired—over forty of them—along with a camp aide for each. The humming gets louder.

Familiar faces appear, camp teachers and aides from former years. We hug and talk about what they’ve been doing since last summer, new ideas they have for this summer. Some were once YSI campers who became camp aides and then instructors. Vanessa has gotten her credential and is teaching at a year-round school near Sacramento. Will won’t be here this summer; he’s in Costa Rica. Lori will be back for a few weeks and so will Kim. Kyle can’t teach camps the first week because his sixth grade class is not out yet for the summer. Jeff will back for Bike Hikes. So much history!

By May there is a positive buzz of activity. As the weather warms, kids drop by in the afternoon. Riding their bikes around after school, they bring their friends in to show them where they went to camp last years, where they’re going this year. They stop to see the animals, to talk about what they’ve been doing, to just hang out with their friends.

Camp teaching kits are brought out of storage; stacks of them fill every free inch of space. Craft kits are replenished with glue sticks, straws, coffee filters, feathers, beads, egg cartons, anything that might be used by a creative camp instructor. First aid kits get new band-aids and items we hope never to use.

Finally the day arrives for the teachers’ meeting. Matters philosophical and practical are considered. What about evolution? What if a parent doesn’t come to pick up a child? Who knows the most about geology? Botany? Chemistry? What’s the best way to store a fishing pole? A collective wisdom develops that far transcends anyone’s personal store of information.

And then its summer. An instructor props open the trunk of her car with a baseball bat so she can unload balloons half covered with paper mache; another emerges with fourteen fishing poles. A seven foot wooden dinosaur skeleton stands under a huge oak. Binoculars and bug nets rest on a picnic table. Campers arrive carrying lunches, riding bikes, bringing pets, chasing friends, laughing, crying, running, sitting.

And so the summer goes. The roar turns into a symphony performed on the instruments invented in Invention Convention, the test tubes filled with water in Curious Chemistry, the singing of bicycle tires, the sighing of wind in the trees and the hum of insects.

What a way to spend the lazy days of summer!

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