Nina Berard, 11, wasn't looking for a summer camp chock full of so many assignments, books and calculators that it felt like school.
All she really wanted for the summer was fun, and that's exactly what she found at the Knights of Columbus Summer Camp on Cherry Hill Road.
The summer camp, hosted by the Catholic fraternal organization, offers campers from 3 to 15 an array of group activities, such as arts and crafts, sports and swimming lessons. Younger children are grouped together with extra counselors who oversee them, and students in eighth grade and up work as counselors in training.
"I wanted to come to this camp because it is not so specific. It has a lot of different activities," Berard said. "The people here are nice. It's safe and the only thing that you will learn is how to have fun."
Camp leaders refuse to bore participants with long academic lectures. Instead, campers can play on water slides and build sand castles.
However, camp organizers have found sneaky ways to add scholarly projects into their summer agenda by intertwining them with art projects. Campers have made volcanoes, piñatas out of paper mâche and Gak, a colorful slime.
"We play a lot," said the camp's director Anne Irwin. "We try to keep things pretty flexible. We want to give the children an opportunity to make some new friends and to have fun."
A few miles away, at Friends Community School, 11-year-old Elizabeth Mulvey i is participating in a camp infused with fun and scholarship.
Friends Community School, a Quaker elementary and middle school on Westchester Park Drive, offers campers three sessions of theme-based camps aimed at nurturing campers' innate curiosity.
The first two summer sessions, CSI: College Park and Bug-Eyed Fun, taught campers how to analyze handwriting, chromatography, how to identify insects and how to understand the various habitats and behaviors of insects. The camp sessions are open to children from kindergarteners to eighth-graders.
The current session, Oh, I Want to Be an Engineer, is teaching campers basic principles in architecture, mechanics and engineering.
"I really like building little cars out of balloons and pencils," Mulvey said. "Camp is fun, and we're learning new things."
The camp staff is led by a team of certified science and art teachers, and the students spend morning sessions learning science and the afternoon doing art. Much of the artwork is done with recycled products, including paper towel rolls and milk cartons.
"A lot of what we do parallels the Quaker philosophy of being good stewards and taking care of the earth," said the camps' director Melanie Baldwin. "We're teaching students about their environment and how to sustain it."
Campers can also embrace their athletic sides, as Friends also offers three sports and recreation camps. The final two athletic camps geared toward soccer and lacrosse begin in August.
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