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.


Published:

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.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

The Benefits of Obstacle Course Camps

Several facilities have popped up in North Carolina to offer kids and adults safe environments in which to learn, train and play.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

June 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

More information

The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  17560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Learn more about Earth's amazing star, the sun. Safely view the sun through a solar telescope, hear about unusual space weather and current solar research, and more. International SUNday...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center
121 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Telephone: 919.707.8239
Contact Name: Rachel Smith
Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill - a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The Eno River Farmers Market celebrates its 10th anniversary. Take a blanket and dish to share.

Cost: Free

Where:
Eno River Farmers Market
144 E. Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

The Art Therapy Institute has been working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools with the Exceptional Children's Program for the past ten years. Enjoy a summer art therapy groups in June and...

Cost: $20 per session

Where:
Art Therapy Institute of NC
200 N Greensboro St. Suite D-6 (2nd Floor Carr Mill Mall)
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Telephone: 919-381-6068
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Weekly basic skills cooking class offered for children ages 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets at the cafe each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy "They Say Blue."

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Children's author Darren Farrell reads from his book, "Letter Town: A Seek-and-Find Alphabet Adventure." From Avenue A to Zoo Z, there's always something to spot and see in Letter...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take part in a 5K on a USATF certified course hosted by Inter Development Futbol Club. Enjoy post-race refreshments and prizes for winners. Register online. 

Cost: $25/advance registration; $30/day of race

Where:
WakeMed Soccer Park
201 Soccer Park Dr.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Inter Development Futbol
Contact Name: Lydia Matombo
Website »

More information

Summerfest Celebration features an autograph session, inflatables, games, free giveaways, guest speakers from the Hurricanes, appearances by Stormy and the Pepsi Storm Squad, discounted...

Cost: Free

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Before he was the beloved Pete the Cat, he was Pete the Kitty. Join Pete on a cat-tastic playdate as he learns a lesson about sharing with his friend, Grumpy Toad. Activities to follow. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Ride the train in a Hawaiian setting complete with craft beer, barbecue and music. Iconic Productions’ DJ Harry will host games prizes and giveaways, including limbo, hula hoop and dance...

Cost: $10-$12

Where:
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Rd.
Bonsal, NC  27562
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The Children’s Saturday Matinee series presents performances by three of the acclaimed professional dance companies that perform during the season. These one-hour performances are specially...

Cost: $17.25/person

Where:
Reynolds Industries Theater
Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC
View map »


Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Sarah Tondu
Website »

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.