Spring is almost here, which means summer is just around the corner and registration for Park Slope’s many summer camps is in full swing. Aside from the usual fare, Park Slope also offers some very special and creative camp experiences with focuses on sword fighting, writing, filmmaking, singing, acting, and more.
For the Young Director (Ages 6-11)
“I consider myself a creative person and I work with creative people, but no one’s as creative as the seven-year-old students in my action film class,” says Tim Sutton, whose camp and after-school program Video Kid reflects the needs of the YouTube age. “Kids are so creative. They can make worlds out of nothing. And video is not a foreign environment to them.” Through collective projects incorporating production design, animation, improvisation, directing, acting, and effects, kids make films worthy of the festival circuit.
While the campers are treated to film screenings, Tim and his team of teachers also like to keep the focus on creation. “One of the things that is very important to me is that media is something to engage in the how-to sense, not necessarily just to glaze over and watch,” he says. “When students learn how to do what they see, it makes it seem more engaging than when they’re just watching it.”
Video Kid began as an after-school program at PS 321 last year then grew exponentially to other schools throughout the year including PS 10, 39, 107 and The Children’s School. Its great success has led to the special summer camp that runs for three weeks in July. Students can focus on everything from adaptation to comedy to special effects year-round, or they can explore filmmaking from all aspects in the Video Kid 101 class. “These students,” Tim notes, “come out of here knowing what a close-up is, they know what a mid shot is, they know what a high angle is, they know what stop-animation is, they know what an actor is. And the ideas they come up with and the energy they put toward it – adults don’t have that.”
For the Uncommon Gal (Ages 6-11)
Some girls prefer to work on their art without having to deal with boys, and Curious Jane offers an ever-changing assortment of themed week camps that foster education in art, science, building, and design in an environment where girls can learn, experiment, and create. “Women are open with sharing resources, so it’s been a very supportive, ‘let’s figure this out together’ environment,” says founder Samantha Razook Murphy, who employs a range of teachers and artists to navigate the campers’ journey through themes like zine publishing, toy design, DIY fashion, story arts, and wired technology.
The all-female aspect is new to Samantha, but as a mother of two daughters, she enjoys giving girls a gender-friendly learning environment. “With girls there tends to be an internal and external pressure to get the right answer, while boys have more of a freedom to try something and if it doesn’t work, it explodes, it falls apart, then we’re going to try again,” Samantha says. “Girls often move at a more hesitant pace at first than boys, so it’s great for them to have the freedom to experiment. All of our classes are very project-based, so we’re trying to emphasize to the girls that this is about them, they can play around. Plus our all-female staff is great – they all have experience and comfort in what they teach, and the girls can look at them and see a role model.”
Since its inception in 2009, Curious Jane has branched out to multiple New York City locations as well as Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Naples, Florida. In addition to daily games and theme-focused activities, Curious Jane students also take occasional field trips, like to the Brooklyn Kitchen, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, or even to give trapeze a try or visit a real woman-owned woodworking studio. But for the most part, Curious Jane’s true home is Park Slope, which Samantha says has been very supportive: “People want to be involved. It strikes a chord.” Curious Jane’s fourth annual summer program starts in July with classes at The Berkeley Carroll School, The Brooklyn Free School, and International School of Brooklyn.
For the Blossoming Actor (Ages 4.5-14)
If your child has a flair for the theatrical, White Bird Productions’ Creative Theatrics offers a summer workshop for kindergarten to sixth grade students. Celebrating its 13th year in operation, Creative Theatrics gives campers real theater and stage design training from its staff of teaching artists and professional actors like camp director Lorrie Harrison, who has been with the non-profit founded by Kathryn Dickinson for the last eight years. “There’s always more to learn and explore,” Lorrie says, “and the right place to be is when you’re almost falling off the log, but not quite. You always need to be at that point of discovery.”
A typical day at Creative Theatrics includes a mix of acting, music, and art design split up by lunch, snacks, outdoor time, and group activities. Students from kindergarten to second grade meet at the Prospect Park Picnic House on Prospect Park West and 3rd Street, and older students meet at the Old First Reformed Church on 7th Avenue and Carroll Street, which serves as the shared stage for all Creative Theatrics campers for their end-of-the-week performances. “We have a show to put on every Friday at 2:00,” Lorrie says. “There’s something about that that’s energizing.”
While Creative Theatrics campers get to learn acting genres, dance choreography, and costume, prop, and puppet design, Lorrie wants them to leave the program with three things: “First, I want them to have a great time because it’s summer. Second, I want them to feel good that they can make and perform a play in a week. Thirdly, kids are always asked to make meaning out of difficult subjects in school and in life — like Shakespeare, parts of history, math, science, and anything they’re faced with in school, and we want kids to face these challenges in a fun and creative way, and then to feel the empowerment of saying ‘I know Shakespeare! So what if I’m in first grade?’”
For the Greek God Bookworm (Ages 6-13)
For fans of the popular Rick Riordan children’s book series Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Brownstone Books’ Camp Half-Blood gives kids ages 6-10 a chance to experience a real training ground for young demigods just like in the books. After hearing about the camp’s success in Texas, Park Slope mother Crystal Bobb-Semple decided to bring the magic to the neighborhood for her children in 2010. “Most of all so much of what makes Brooklyn special converges in Park Slope,” Crystal says, which is why the park was the ideal location for the demigods-in-training.
Camp Half-Blood takes advantage of Prospect Park’s combination of both open space and narrow pathways for a range of Greek god-inspired activities like phalanx training, sword-fighting battles, and even chariot battles updated to the modern day via rickshaws. Campers team up in the name of Athena, Hermes, Apollo, and others and engage in storytelling, role-play, and even daily quests and prophecies under the guidance of their counselors AKA The Golden Fleece. In addition to the physical challenge of learning archery, sword fighting, and Greek war formations, campers also get a lesson in art by decorating swords, flags, and creating their own Pandora’s box and labrynth.
As for the camp’s growing success, Crystal credits her campers: “Children are such truth seekers,” she says. “They know that the world can be unfair, that good people sometimes misbehave, and that results can be arbitrary. Greek mythology does such a masterful job of explaining history, morality, and consequence without being preachy. The frailties of the Gods and heroes in Greek mythology allow kids – all of us, really – the freedom to be both flawed and fantastic.” Sounds a lot like Park Slope itself, a place where it’s safe for kids to plunge into projects with like-minded thinkers and aim high, make fearless mistakes, and try again like true warriors.
Learn more about these camps here: