Summer camps offer opportunity for continued learning in Plum

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Joy Smith found from three decades as a teacher that children who stay physically and mentally active during the summer are ready to learn in the fall.

Smith, 62, president of the board of directors of the day camp at the Presbyterian Church of Plum Creek in Plum, and others affiliated with summer programs in the borough are preparing for another season of offering stimulating activities for children.

“When kids do a really good summer learning program, they come back to school knowing more and not forgetting what they learn,” said Amanda Koury, 27, a doctoral student in the psychology department at the University of Pittsburgh. Koury is pursuing her doctorate in developmental psychology.

Koury said children can lose three months of academic skills over the summer if they don't use their intellectual abilities.

The Day Camp at Plum Creek offers activities for children who have completed first grade through sixth grade. The program is in its ninth year and offers a Christian-based program with Bible study and stories, arts and crafts, team-building initiatives, mountain-boarding, water games, a climbing tower and a zip line.

About 150 children attend the day camp each summer.

Smith of Plum said children who exceed the age for participation in the day camp have the opportunity to attend as support staff.

“It gives them some experience at working for someone,” Smith said.

“They learn how to deal with children of all ages. It introduces them to the world of work.”

Koury said activities that include children working together and taking on leadership roles are beneficial.

“There is no way to highlight how important it is for kids to have something to do over the summer,” Koury said. “It makes them good citizens. And physical activities are so important.”

Suellen Wiles 13 years ago started the SummerBlast program at Unity Community Church for children in kindergarten through the sixth grade.

Attendance has grown from 86 the first year to more than 600 last year.

SummerBlast also is faith-based and includes indoor and outdoor activities including Bible lessons, arts and crafts, paintball, a water slide, other water games and a moonwalk.

“A lot of parents work,” said Wiles, 45, of Plum. “It is something for children to do rather than sit at home all day.

“It keeps their brains functioning.”

The East Suburban Family YMCA's summer day camp, Camp Bouquet, runs from June through the end of August.

The campers engage in a wide range of activities at the 55-acre facility, including swimming, kickball, soccer, hiking, scavenger hunts, fishing, canoeing and arts and crafts.

Fridays are field-trip day or special-event day at the YMCA.

“They learn about teamwork, cooperation and taking turns,” said Ben Raible, summer day camp director.

“We want kids to have fun, but we structure it like the school day.”

About 200 to 250 children attend camp each day, said Raible, 30, of North Huntingdon.

Smith said summer camps offer children a better alternative than unstructured time.

“(It is better for children) than sitting in front of the TV and playing video games,” said Smith of Plum.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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