A brand new summer camp menu in Bonita Springs and Estero this summer will entice young people with everything from LEGO robotics and pickleball, birds, reptiles and marine biology. The YMCA goes beyond its traditional swimming, indoor sports and art camps to include new specialty camps. And for the first time, Lovers Key State Park jumps into the realm of summer camps.
The local YMCA will offer Archery, STEAM, Volleyball, Pickleball, Basketball, Soccer, Chess, Editors, Art, LEGO Robotics and Specialty Youth Leadership Camps at the YMCA of Bonita Springs and its satellite locations at Bonita Springs Rec Center, Camp Estero and Three Oaks Middle School. They even run a special camp for four- and five-year-olds to prepare them for school. Each specialty takes place a different week and each in a specific location. Most camps are aimed at children aged 4 to 12, but each specialty has an age limit. The YMCA uses experts to run these camps. For example, the archery camp is run by certified US archery instructors and the STEAM camps are run by math and science specialists.
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“One of the things we’re always looking for is the ability to have multiple options for all kinds of interests,” said Angel Cerritos, general manager of Bonita Springs YMCA. “Some kids may be interested in a certain sport, but LEGO robotics can teach kids science and technology, and we want to spark that interest. On top of that, we are introducing pickleball so kids can learn the ins and outs of pickleball and hopefully gain a passion and families can play together.
Cerritos said the local YMCA has never offered a camp for children aged 4 to 5, so he’s excited to include a program that prepares them for kindergarten. He also stresses that the camps are not limited to families who can afford them.
“We have scholarships for families who have financial difficulties,” he explained. “Our goal is not to turn anyone away because of an inability to pay. It can range from 10 to 50 or 75 percent aid. Once we have approved the scholarship, it applies to any program.
YMCA camps are also adding additional sites this summer to make it more convenient for families.
“The hope with the expansion with the addition of new campsites is to bring services directly to the community where the children live, as transportation can be an issue. Now our camps are more accessible to more families.
While up to 100 children can attend camps each week, each camp program will have a maximum of 12 children.
This is the first summer that Lovers Key State Park will have an indoor, air-conditioned visitor and discovery center. This prompted the FOLKS (Friends of Lovers Key) volunteer group to launch their first summer camp. And they don’t limit it to young children. The camp will offer sessions to participants aged 6 to 17.
“I have a background in education and am a volunteer, and few of my friends thought it would be a wonderful fusion of disciplines to have an immersive experience in nature,” said Louise Kowitch, Education Coordinator for FOLKS.
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The camps will combine scientific and artistic exploration.
“The younger ones will do more with art and creative expression and the older ones will take more of a course in marine biology,” Kowitch explained.
The Marine Science Camp for 13-17 year olds will be taught by an International Baccalaureate Biology teacher and feature exploration, scientific research, nature journaling, and photography. Younger children will paint and draw while learning about plants, animals and coastal habitats. Sessions will be limited to 15 participants each to keep them safe during the pandemic, but Kowitch says this has additional benefits.
“It’s a mixed blessing,” she said. “We had to limit it because of Covid, but we provide them with personalized experiences with our instructors. We will also have interns with training in marine biology. We think it will be a real learning experience.
Kowitch is thrilled that the park can finally offer a summer camp experience.
“My mantra is that it is a privilege to live in Florida and with that privilege is a responsibility,” Kowitch explained. “To be good stewards of our habitat, you must first understand what you see and get out into the wild and observe. Then you can start to understand. And when you understand, appreciate and revere our coastal habitat, you will be an effective steward. “
The Everglades Wonder Gardens also want children and teens to learn more about the local environment. Their summer program begins with an opportunity for Grades 9 to 12 students to participate in a Junior Ambassador Program. They will learn everything from animal care and horticulture to education.
“I know older kids don’t want to go to camp all summer, so we want to give them leadership opportunities,” said Jessi Drummond, Education Manager. “It will help them develop things that colleges are looking for. We have so many opportunities. There are so many roads they can take.
The rest of the summer is reserved for children in grades three to five. Each week will have a different theme including:
- Global Scientists: Learn About Scientists and How to Be a Scientist.
- Birds of wonder: Focus on birds.
- Cold-blooded explorers: Focus on reptiles.
- Plant wonders: Focus on flora and fauna.
- All about wonder: a mixture that links many aspects of plants and creatures.
Drummond said the two main advisers are FGCU graduates who have been fully vaccinated.
If you are going to
- When: From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, the specialized camps take place from June 21 to August. 6 with different specialties each week.
- Or: Bonita Springs YMCA, Bonita Springs Rec Center, Camp Estero, and Three Oaks Middle School. (different specialties are organized in different places)
- Age: 5-12 (each specialty has its own age requirements)
- Cost: Prices range from $ 90 per week to $ 135 per week. Members benefit from price discounts. Grants available
- Info: To register for the camp online, go to swflymca.org or stop by the Bonita Springs YMCA for a complete registration package. For more details or questions call 239-221 – 7560
Lovers Key State Park Camps
(All Lovers Key Camps will be at the State Park at 8700 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach)
- What: Painting in nature
- When: 10 a.m. to noon, June 14 to 18
- Age: 7-13
- Cost: $ 125
- Info: Paint and draw while learning about plants, animals and coastal habitats. Creating eco-friendly art through a variety of media /
- What: Exploration and discovery of the beaches
- When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., June 21 to June 25 and June 28 to July 2
- Cost: $ 300 per week
- Info: Explore Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico using microscopes, seines, plankton trawls and fishing rods. Learn about aquatic life through hands-on experiences.
- What: maritime science
- When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., July 4 to July 9 and July 12 to July 16
- Age: 13-17
- Cost: $ 300 per week
- Info: Learn what it’s like to be a marine biologist through scientific research, featuring oceanography, conservation, and estuarine ecology. Gary Rullo, International Baccalaureate Biology professor at Dunbar High School will lead the group. There will be a nature journal, photography and more. Topics include barrier islands, coastal ecosystems, marine invertebrates, plants, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.
- What: Eco-arts
- When: 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 19 to 23 and July 26 to 30
- Age: 7-8
- Cost: $ 200 per week
- Info: Learn about coastal ecology through creative activities and field trips in the park. Painting, drawing, crafts and storytelling.
Everglades Wonderland Gardens
- Or: 27180 Old 41 Rd, Bonita Springs
- What: Camp Merveille
- When: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but early drop-off and late pick-up are available. From June 21 to 25 and from June 28 to August 6.
- Age: The first week is reserved for high school students. The rest of the summer for children entering grades 3-5
- Cost: $ 125 per week for members, $ 150 for non-members, scholarships available
- Info: Wondergardes.org/camps