Tapping Natural Resources

Although the mention of day camps might typically conjure up images of arts and crafts and rec-center programs, there are other venues to consider.

For instance, those who live on the coast can take advantage of the sun, the waves and the beach, and the challenge to campers to discover skills they never knew they had.

Nearly 550 children ages 10 to 17 participated in programs held at the city of Boca Raton’s three major beaches in the summer of 2011. Take a look and see if there’s anything you might be able to implement.

And keep in mind that just because you don’t live in Florida doesn’t mean you can’t re-create a beach in a land-locked locale and have fun!

Junior Lifeguard Program

Led by the city’s ocean-rescue staff, the program teaches basic ocean-rescue techniques, lifeguard skills, and first-aid procedures. It focuses on the variables that make guarding the ocean different from being in a pool environment, such as how to navigate rip currents as well as how to use hand signals and teamwork to make a “save.”

The five-week program at Spanish River Park had 85 participants last summer--its 17th year in operation.

Surf Camp

A combined effort between the city and Living Water Surf School, this program in Florida is the only one endorsed by the Quicksilver/Roxy surf camp. Participants not only learn to surf, but also get to snorkel one of the best reefs in the state at Red Reef Park, as well as experience tow-surfing and wakeboarding behind a jet ski.

In addition to learning to respect the ocean, campers also develop self-esteem and confidence as they challenge themselves to pop up on a surfboard and ride a wave to shore.

In addition, for the first time in 2011, a child with a disability participated in the program. Staff assessed her abilities and provided her with her own counselor; by the end of the week, she was up on the board and rode in with minimal support!

Developed four years ago, the surf camp is the most popular of the beach programs, with 430 children getting their feet wet during the 11-week camp.

Beach Volleyball Camp

Accommodating all volleyball enthusiasts from novice to expert, the camp was offered for three weeks at South Beach Park. The 40 children who participated were divided by skill level, and occupied two courts throughout the day. At the end of each day, all players were blended and played games together.

Ocean Adventure Camp

Coming in 2012, this program will be offered through a partnership with Under Blue Waters. The Marine educational camp will provide an opportunity for campers to learn how to sail and receive certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Additional activities during the week-long camp include snorkeling, Boogie boarding, paddle boarding, and skim boarding.

All of the camps are co-ed and also available to persons with disabilities, for those allowed to safely participate in the activities.

For an "Awesome Extra" on an Eco-Explorers summer day camp, click on this link: The Blue Green Team

Joseph Briggs is the Community Centers Administrator for the city of Boca Raton, Fla. He can be reached at Jbriggs@myboca.us.