Middle School Camps: Discovering Passions While Building Life Skills

Specialized summer camps enable middle-schoolers to dive into an activity they love without school-year obligations.


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Many summer camps, including Schoolhouse of Wonder, located in the Triangle, offer leadership programs for teens seeking new challenges.

Photo courtesy of Schoolhouse of Wonder

In middle school, kids often discover their extracurricular passions. From the arts and sports to robotics and outdoor adventure, specialized summer camp options enable middle schoolers to dive into an activity they love without school-year obligations. While refining their abilities or taking on new challenges at camp, middle schoolers also develop important skills that may help them later in life in unexpected ways.

The Group Effect

Camps that draw tweens and teens who share similar passions open up opportunities for collaboration and communication. George Ramsay and Dean Williams, owners of Bold Music launched their summer Studio Recording and Songwriting Camp to inspire young musicians. Ramsay says many students who take traditional music lessons are technically competent but lack the ability to play with others.

“What makes music exciting is feeding off each other,” Ramsay says. “We want to encourage kids in middle school and high school to use their ability to play music … It’s also a tool that helps you interact with people and collaborate.”

By writing, recording and mixing original music together during the one-week intensive camps, kids learn the art of collaboration.

Learning to work as a team is also important at NC Elite Volleyball in Morrisville, a club that provides year-round opportunities for young athletes to train and compete at a national and/or regional level.

“In a team environment you have to work with people that you didn’t choose to be with,” says Director of Operations Micholene Schumacher. While NC Elite Volleyball’s middle school camps focus on building skills to help players excel during tryouts, the club’s culture emphasizes other aspects of being a good team member, such as communicating effectively and encouraging teammates.

By writing, recording and mixing original music together during Bold Music's one-week intensive camps, kids learn the art of collaboration.

Photo courtesy of Bold Music


Independent Thinking and Exploration

In addition to collaboration, personalized learning is an essential component of specialized camps. At TechTerra Education’s summer camps, located in various areas of the Triangle region, students explore the natural world using science, technology and maker-space activities. They can focus on what interests them the most.

“In schools, pursuing one’s passion and interest is not always the priority,” says TechTerra Education founder and CEO Susan Wells. “Here, it is.”

After 30 years of working in schools, Wells wanted her camps to be different. By keeping numbers small — 25 students per session with one instructor for every six students — TechTerra is able to offer a variety of stations the campers can rotate through during the day. Kids switch stations at regular intervals, using critical thinking and creativity to experiment with 3-D printing, robotics and more. Some campers choose to spend more time focused on a particular activity. Giving students control keeps learning “authentic and meaningful,” Wells says.

Students who attend TechTerra camps explore the natural world using science, technology and maker-space activities.

Photo courtesy of TechTerra


Building Confidence

Choosing a camp organized by ability and age ensures middle schoolers are challenged and supported while trying new things. This can motivate them and help them build confidence.

Bold Music limits the number of participants in each of its sessions to ensure that everyone has enough time to contribute and shine.

“Middle school can be a little bit challenging with their social development,” Ramsay says. “Getting kids together in a small setting — eight kids max — really helps them develop their confidence.”

Kids who participate year-round in an activity are likely to see faster improvement and skill growth than those who only do it for part of the year. Schumacher cautions parents, however, to let their children’s interest level guide the intensity of their participation.

“A lot of times parents want it more than their kids do and that makes me sad,” she says.

Real Life Skills

A great camp experience can be transformative for teens, making an impact that extends beyond the program’s specific subject, sport or theme. When middle schoolers choose a specialized camp, they are exposed to other educational aspects of the experience.

Wells knows most TechTerra campers will not become engineers, but she believes it’s beneficial for all kids to learn to code, have access to technology and understand how the digital and natural worlds intersect. They need this knowledge to make sound ethical decisions as 21st-century citizens and consumers, and they may not have the opportunity to learn how to do this in school, Wells says.

At NC Elite Volleyball, camp participants learn their actions have real consequences. Developing simple habits like “shagging” (collecting) volleyballs without being asked, arriving first to the gym to help set up the nets and treating others with respect can play a critical role in coaches’ selections of players.

“Everything that they learn in volleyball can be transitioned to real life, which is one of my favorite things,” Schumacher says.

Developing Leaders

Many camps offer leadership programs for teens who are seeking a new challenge or their first professional experience. While counselor-in-training programs are widely available for high schoolers, some organizations extend the opportunity to older middle school-aged kids, too. Applications are typically due before March.

“Making the change from a camper at age 12 to a counselor-in-training at age 13 can be quite a challenging transition if they have been a camper for many years,” says Wendy Tonker of Schoolhouse of Wonder, a nature-based, outdoor day camp with locations in the Triangle area.

At Schoolhouse of Wonder, staff mentors help participants develop their leadership style. As a counselor-in-training assumes new responsibilities, he or she builds self-confidence and starts seeing his or her position as a role model, Tonker says.

They also serve as invaluable resources to full-time staff. Since many are former campers, they provide insight into what makes the camp special and why they choose to come back each year.

“Some of these kids who have not perceived themselves to be leaders anywhere else can find a place here,”  Tonker says.  


Liz Rothaus Bertrand is a freelance writer who lives in Charlotte with her husband and two sons, ages 5 and 8.

 

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Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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Art Walk featuring local galleries and artist studios in historic downtown Hillsborough on the Last Friday of every month (no Art Walk in December).

Cost: FREE

Where:
Downtown Hillsborough (multiple locations)
102 N. Churton St.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Hillsborough Arts Council
Telephone: 919-643-2500
Contact Name: Torey Mishoe
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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
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Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
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Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
View map »


Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Join one of our talented Mid-South Fencers’ Club coaches for a one hour virtual lesson to the fast paced and exciting sport of Olympic Fencing! This will be a FREE ONLINE class. All you need is...

Cost: free

Where:
Mid-South Fencers' Club ONLINE
125 N. Gregson St.
DURHAM, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Mid-South Fencers' Club
Telephone: 919-286-3100
Contact Name: Jeff Kallio
Website »

More information

It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

Get your summer vibes going at the 1st Annual Hubb’s Beach Blast at Hubb’s Farm in Clinton, NC.  Hubb’s Beach Blast will feature two of beach music industry’s top groups, Jim Quick and...

Cost: 20-50

Where:
Hubb's Farm
10276 US HWY 421 N
Clinton, NC  28328
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Sponsor: Hubb's Farm
Telephone: 910-564-6709
Contact Name: Tammy Peterson
Website »

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