By Kelly Bevan McIlquham
As warmer weather slowly returns to the Berkshires, so too do family-friendly things to do. Outdoor theater and new kid-inspired museum programs abound, a slew of spring sporting events and kid-friendly hikes dominate the region, and historical venues open their doors once again and allow families to step back in time to a Berkshire County from long ago.
But even with a plethora of activities and events to keep the kiddos busy, every parent and child could use a little respite from each other during the fast approaching summer months, and summer camps throughout the region can provide that break from each other that family members may need. It is also a great way to introduce this memorable region to your children and have them come to cherish the Berkshires in their own right.
“If I were to send my kids to a camp it would be to somewhere that would interest them individually and introduce them to new kids and new experiences,” said Jodi Massaro of Dalton, a mom of four ranging in age from 16 to 7. “It would also give them a much-needed break from being with their siblings all summer.”
From art, theater and sports camps, to nature, science and camps that offer an eclectic array of programs and activities for a variety of ages, you can find it all in the Berkshires.
Camps such as ones held by IS183 Art School of the Berkshires in Stockbridge, and Berkshire Theatre Group and Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield offer opportunities for kids to put their creative minds to work during several camp sessions throughout the summer.
IS183’s four one-week visual arts summer camps for children ages 3 to 14 allow participants to explore a different arts-related theme each week through a variety of media and experiences. These camps that take place on the school’s campus (ages 8 to 14) and Berkshire Country Day School’s campus (ages 3 to 7), and besides nurturing children’s artistic talents, also allows time for campers to play and learn in the great outdoors.
“Over the course of the summer we welcome 350 campers who, through immersion in our young artists programs, are given a healthy balance of indoor and outdoor creativity and fun,” said Amy Butterworth, IS183’s coordinator of student services and community life.
For those ready to put their inner thespians on display Barrington Stage Company and Berkshire Theatre Group once again will run their annual theater camps for children in the Berkshires.
Barrington Stage Company will offer two three-week sessions of KidsAct! summer theater camp beginning July 1 and running through Aug. 9 — one in Great Barrington and one at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pittsfield. During each session students ages 8 to 15 will participate in ensemble building and improvisation exercises, vocal training, movement and stage combat, as well as collaborating to create an original work to perform under the guidance of experienced theater instructors.
Berkshire Theatre Group will offer several BTG Plays! camps at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield for children in kindergarten through grade six. Participants will build dramatic skills and gain self-confidence through improvisational activities, skits, theater games, movement exercises and dramatic storytelling. Sessions will run from June 24 to 28; July 22 to Aug. 2; Aug. 5-9; and Aug. 12-16. Go online to berkshiremuseum.org for session ages and times.
“We help kids speak with focus, energy and passion about who they are,” said BTG’s CEO and Artistic Director Kate Maguire. “The BTG PLAYS! camps provide an environment for the kids to not only have fun, use their imagination and develop their creativity, but also to grow and emerge into confident and articulate young people.”
Barrington Stage and BTG theater camps will culminate in a final performance for the community.
Camp Mah-Kee-Nac, which runs sessions from the end of June until the middle of August, combines high-quality sports instruction with traditional camp fun for boys ages 7 to 15. From baseball to roller hockey and sailing to wakeboarding, this camp on beautiful Stockbridge Bowl will leave campers wanting more. The camp offers three-, four-, six- and seven-week sessions, as well as a mini-camp session for boys in grades two through six who are thinking about attending sleep-away camp next year.
“For over 80 years, Camp Mah-Kee-Nac has offered boys … wonderful summer experiences, generation after generation” said Camp Director Walter Synalovski on the camps website. “At Mah-Kee-Nac, we offer an excellent program in a fun and safe environment. Our goal is for your child to have a FUN summer, learn life skills, program skills, enhance his self-confidence and personal independence.”
Camp at Berkshire Soccer Academy for Girls prepares young female athletes to be well rounded and fully capable soccer players — and girls. The sessions, running from June 28 to Aug. 2, focus on topics like confidence, control, teamwork and communication, as well as developing skills on the soccer field aimed at “encouraging “whole player” development of each athlete by maximizing opportunities that challenge them physically, mentally and socially,” its site says.
Belvoir Terrace is an individually structured teaching camp specializing in art, dance, music, theater and individual sports such as tennis, volleyball, soccer, synchronized swimming and more, while Camp Half Moon has been providing summer program for kids since 1922. According to Camp Half Moon’s site, camp directors Gretchen Mann-Fritch and Ric Fritz believe that time spent at camp — making new friends, learning new skills and having fun — is a time most kids will never forget.
“(Kids) are creating memories that last a lifetime,” the camp’s director’s message reads. “Since1922, Camp Half Moon has been helping kids explore the world around them, while learning about themselves and others.”
For a listing of Berkshire area camps go online to http://berkshires.org/business_category/camps/
Kelly Bevan McIlquham was born and raised in Berkshire County, and is now raising her three children, with her husband in Hinsdale. She is the founder of Berkshire Family Focus, an online source for family activities, events and more in the Berkshires.