Choice of things to do this summer
By Elizabeth Sheeran
At midday on Tuesday, the 2011-2012 school year came to a close in Somerville.
That’s great news for students who have been counting down the days until summer vacation. But it presents a whole new set of challenges for parents, who know how quickly the “No more homework!” chant can give way to a chorus of “I’m bored.” And even if kids are perfectly content to lounge around all summer watching TV or playing video games, educators say there’s a downside to summer months filled with too much “doing nothing.”
“Studies have shown that students who are not active in some type of enrichment or learning opportunity over the summer can experience a loss of learning,” said Somerville School Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi. “There are so many advantages to keeping kids engaged and active over the summer. Summer enrichment and learning programs such as camps, summer school, sports, and a variety of other activities not only help students keep their minds and bodies sharp, but helps them continue to grow socially as well.”
Fortunately, the city of Somerville and local non-profits offer lots of ways for kids to stay active and engaged between now and September.
Kids looking for a rustic camp experience without having to pack up a sleeping bag can hop on the bus every weekday at the Elizabeth Peabody House on Broadway and ride nearly a century of tradition out to Camp Gannett, on 22 wooded lakefront acres in rural Sharon. Campers aged five through 13 can take in a daily dose of land and water sports, outdoor adventures and other fun and games.
Camp coordinator Alex Schuppert said the program is designed to build on the learning kids do during the school year. “We integrate math, science and social studies, but all in a fun, camp kind of way,” said Schuppert, adding that the rural setting adds to the enrichment. “It gets them out of the city and into a different environment, which is an advantage, because it provides for a hands-on learning experience about nature and sustainability.”
Parents of elementary and middle school-aged students can also choose from a variety of full-day summer programs based at sites in Somerville. Like Camp Gannett, all are designed to provide a safe, structured environment for kids to thrive over the summer months. And while all are fee-based programs, they offer different levels of need-based financial aid, and free breakfast and lunch.
The seven-week Adventure Camp, run by the Somerville Schools, is based at the Healey School and combines a rotating schedule of special-interest programs, like nature, technology or the arts, with physical activities, free play, and twice-weekly field trips that have included beaches, museums, amusement parks and ballgames.
“We do a good job of balancing free play, outdoor activity and enrichment,” said Rosanna Paribello, one of the program administrators.
The Somerville YMCA also strives for that mix in its summer program, said Youth Services Director Joe Pinto. Day campers get full use of the pool, gym and other facilities at the Y’s Highland Avenue site, as well as canoeing at the Mystic River Boathouse, and still venture out two to three times per week to kid-friendly destinations around the region. And Pinto said the Y builds in time to directly combat learning loss, such as with summer reading help.
The recreation department’s six-week-long Somertime program is based at the West Somerville Neighborhood School, but kids spend a large part of their day on the playing fields and in the pool at the nearby Dilboy Complex. Group-based games, arts and crafts, weekly dance parties and field trips add to the mix. “The kids are always moving, always playing,” said program director George Scarpelli.
And parents don’t have to commit to a full-time schedule to get kids moving over the summer. The recreation department is offering a full roster of partial-day sports clinics, including golf, soccer, baseball, softball, football, basketball and volleyball, with a focus on fundamentals and a flexible approach tailored to each kid’s skill level. New this year will be a boxing club clinic, emphasizing non-contact, non-competitive boxing discipline.
Somerville’s ever- lively cultural scene serves up lots of ways for kids to explore the arts this summer. Middle-schoolers can hone their talents in Project Star, the city’s free performing arts program directed by Jimmy Del Ponte. Kids can learn to play an instrument or perfect their musical skills at a two-week strings camp at the Kennedy School in July. Arts-at-the- Armory lists a full array of part-time classes for kids of all ages, just one of many local non-profits offering up instruction in just about anything a kid might want to do.
Younger teens who are too old for day camp but too young for employment can use their summer vacation to shore up their job skills for the future in the city’s CIT/LIT Job Readiness program, where they learn interviewing and job search skills and get a taste of entry-level work. “They get a good grounding in what they need to get a job and what job opportunities are available to them,” said Pinto of the YMCA, which runs the program.
Students of any age are welcome six days a week at any branch of the Somerville Public Library, which is planning teen book clubs, kid-friendly performances and special interest classes over the summer, but is also just a place where kids can go to catch up on summer reading or use the internet. “The library is always open, so it’s a great drop-in resource for kids who are in the city for the summer,” said children’s librarian Catherine Piantigini.
And the library is a near-bottomless resource for parents looking for plan their own activities with their kids this summer, including the museum pass program, where families can check out free passes to a long list of area attractions, including local zoos, art institutions, and popular sites like the Kennedy Library, the Childrens Museum or the Museum of Science.
Add to that a city that is home to a network of 50 or more open spaces, and a full roster of summertime special events, like the upcoming Family Fun Day and Fireworks, the SomerMovieFest series of outdoor films, ArtBeat in Davis Square in late July, and monthly Somerstreets events, and there’s no reason for any Somerville student to spend the summer sitting at home.
“Students in Somerville have a multitude of summer programs from which to choose, and a community who really encourages an active lifestyle. We hope every student takes advantage of the many opportunities available to them over the summer to keep them engaged academically, socially and physically,” said Superintendent Pierantozzi.