From School to Summer Camp As the school year comes to a close, a lot of parents search out summer camps to keep their kids' minds active during the long break from school. Dr. Jerlean Daniel, executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, explains what to look for in a good camp.
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From School to Summer Camp

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From School to Summer Camp

From School to Summer Camp

From School to Summer Camp

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As the school year comes to a close, a lot of parents search out summer camps to keep their kids' minds active during the long break from school. Dr. Jerlean Daniel, executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, explains what to look for in a good camp.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

As the school year comes to a close, lots of parents search out summer camps to keep their kids' minds active during the long break from school. But are the camps always on a child's best interest and what if it's just too expensive?

For answers, we brought in Dr. Jerlean Daniel. She's deputy executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Dr. Daniel, thanks for coming on and what about summer camps' being too intense for kids?

Dr. JERLEAN DANIEL (Deputy Executive Director, National Association for the Education of Young Children): Well, I think that's certainly something to consider because you do want the summertime to be a little different pace.

I see it as an opportunity to have learning opportunities that are more well rounded, if you will. There's more than one way to learn about math and reading by really doing and by exploring the world.

CHIDEYA: There are a lot of families, though, worried. There's not a parent at home to give any instruction or guidance during the summer so the kids have to go somewhere. What are some of the options especially for African American families looking around?

Dr. DANIEL: Well, I think that typically in local newspapers, they'll list a lot of summer camps. And in urban areas, there's usually someone supporting a - what's typically called a sunshine camp, where children from the city get to go out into the countryside and - they are day trips typically - where they get to explore nature and have a whole different environment.

CHIDEYA: So you have a situation where there's potential to go outside and do things outdoors. There's also a need for kids to keep up their skills over the summer. What exactly do you think parents should take into account, maybe about their specific children? You know, some kids are more outgoing, some kids need more help with academics. How should they evaluate that night choices?

Dr. DANIEL: Well, I think it's important that each parent use what they know about their individual children. What are their interests? What are they curious about? What are they reticent about as they think through the choices because what you want to do is you want your child to feel comfortable but you also want to nudge them a little bit in terms of growth.

I would also suggest that parents pay attention to and inquire about the qualifications of the councilors who are offering the camping experience. There is a group that accredits camps, The American Camp Association. But if we're talking about young children - and NAEYC deals with the children from birth to eight - they might also go to our Web site rightchoiceforkids.org. That could tell them something about what to look for when you're talking about children in that kindergarten through third grade age range.

CHIDEYA: And there's been an increase in specialty camps. There are some that even teach African American history and culture. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Dr. DANIEL: Well, I love the idea. I wish it had been around when my kids were younger. But I think it's a great idea and I think that what parents should look for is that the history that the children learned should come to life and that's what I mean by a well-rounded kind of experience.

So it shouldn't all be reading. It should be going to see, perhaps, tracing the trail or the life of a particular African American who may have grown up in that city or town. A way of walking in the footprints of, if you will, exploring some ideas and debts. Bring it to life.

CHIDEYA: Well, Dr. Daniel, thanks for coming in.

Dr. DANIEL: Well, thank you for having me.

CHIDEYA: Dr. Jerlean Daniel is deputy executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. You can find out more about what she has been talking about on our Web site npr.org/newsandnotes and she spoke with us from NPR's Washington D.C. headquarters.

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