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School's out for summer...or is it?
By Marija Djondric
From September to June, Havergal College in Toronto is in the serious business of education. Come July, things get a bit wacky. There's "crazy sock day," when you might find outrageously clad youngsters scampering across fields to gather items for a scavenger hunt, or new friends creating a racket on the tennis court. Havergal is one of a number of independent schools offering summer camp programs.
"It makes sense in today's world, from a parent's point of view. There's continuity," says Stephanie Seagram, director of Havergal's co-ed summer day camp programs. "(Summer camp) provides character education and confidence building. It is a valuable experience for all children."
Founded in 1894, Havergal is a day and boarding school for girls from junior kindergarten through high school, located on nine hectares in north Toronto. Its day camp program was started in 1971.
Ten-year-old Tori Peacock, a five-year veteran of Havergal's camp program, doesn't mince words when asked why she keeps coming back: "Because I like it and it's fun." She especially enjoys the drama program, and the chance to improvise an ending to a play about a girl trapped in Africa during a rainstorm.
Like Peacock, who goes to a nearby public school, most Havergal campers do not attend school there.
In addition to the general day camp, which features swimming instruction, team and individual sports, co-operative games, arts and crafts, drama and nature appreciation, Havergal operates a tennis camp, in operation since 1984, for children age 8 to 14.
Mike Kaye, 20, who heads the tennis program, says campers spend about three hours on the court each day, rotating through several skills stations before eventually participating in a tournament and earning a series of badges. They call it the "Havergal method."
Kaye says campers develop basic skills and work on technique and strategy, depending on their level of play.
"Camp is a place where you get to be who you are and you are appreciated for your differences and eccentricities," Seagram says. "Camp celebrates differences more openly."
At Bayview Glen, the focus is on integration. The camp embraces children with special needs in an atmosphere best described as organized chaos. Some 850 campers -- ages 2 to 15 -- are enrolled at any given time during the summer, for a total of more than 1,200 annual campers, director Lynda Fishman says.
Founded in 1962, Bayview Glen is a co-ed private day school in northeast Toronto. Its urban campus is adjacent to 16 hectares of conservation area, through which the Don River flows. A lease with the city allows Bayview Glen exclusive use of these woodlands.
During the year, Bayview Glen is a co-ed private day school in Toronto. But in the summer it turns into fun central, offering everything from two swimming pools to the chance to make a little music for campers like Matthew, left, and Philip.
The traditional day-camp program, in existence since the founding of the school, features a huge roster of activities, including swimming, trail biking, archery, golf, fine arts and cooking. Everything is provided -- transportation, lunch and even towels at its two swimming pools.
"The culture that we have created here makes us stand out," Fishman says. "It is incredible how much we care about the program here."
Carly Rogenstein, 19, one of more than 400 staff at Bayview Glen, has worked at the camp for five summers, starting out as counsellor-in-training and working up to supervisor. Last summer, she managed the two- to four-year-olds. "You get to be outside in a beautiful setting in the middle of the city," she says.
While both Havergal and Bayview Glen largely attract campers from their respective communities, nothing could be further from the truth for Bishop's College School's summer boarding school in Lennoxville, Quebec, east of Montreal. The specialized four-week language program in both English and French attracts students from across the globe to the 140-hectare campus. Director Jeff Bray says last summer's program included 120 students from Canada and the United States, as well as China, Korea and Colombia.
The language program, in its 43rd year, is largely academic, but in a "camp-like atmosphere," Bray says. "It's serious, but we're not hounding them. We know it's their summer."
The 11- to 16-year-olds will learn basic skills in either English or French and work toward a certificate. However, they also participate in weekly leisure activities and sports, and travel to Ottawa for two days to learn about Canada's culture in both official languages.
Bray says students show a marked improvement in their language skills, a credit to the school's unique blend of instruction and interaction. "They are together all the time. They interact with each other and really do learn a lot," he says.
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