Your 2017 Guide to Delaware's Summer Camps

Eco-aware summer camps help kids fall in love with nature.

For Jon Wickert, it wasn’t love at first sight. He went to the local park as a kid, fished a few ponds, walked some trails, but nature didn’t capture his young imagination. Wickert’s attention was occupied by sports. Not until college did Wickert come to appreciate animals, trees, flowers, waterways and ecosystems. He found that passion by working at summer camp in Maryland. It changed Wickert’s life. “I wouldn’t be where I am without that camp experience,” he said.

In some ways, Wickert is still in camp. As chief of interpretation for Delaware State Parks, Wickert oversees more than 130 summer camps at eight parks and the Brandywine Zoo. His job is to “interpret” nature—its science, challenges and beauty—to visitors, including campers.

“The goal first and foremost is for these kids to have memorable, meaningful and fun relationships with nature,” Wickert says. “We can all reach back and touch a powerful summer camp memory and think about how it formed us. At Delaware State Parks, we’re laying the groundwork for that.”

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A similar mission informs Delaware Nature Society’s camps, run in eight locations, including DuPont Environmental Education Center and Granogue Estate in Wilmington, Bucktoe Creek Preserve in Avondale, Ashland Nature Center in Hockessin and Abbott’s Mill Nature Center in Milford. Helen Fischel, director of education and organizational development, says that Delaware Nature Society makes “lifelong investments in children so they make lifelong investments in nature.” That is especially important given the technologically mediated nature of so many experiences among kids today. “I love technology, but too many kids are too sedentary,” Fischel says. “If kids learn to appreciate the outdoors, they’ll take an interest in caring for it. We really need younger generations to fall in love with nature.”

While those are the long-term goals, the short-term goal is for kids to learn, explore and get really, really dirty. A great way to do that: Delaware Museum of Natural History’s camps, which serve kids from pre-K through sixth grade. New this summer is Tough Museum Camp for students from grades 3 through 6. Part boot camp, part Olympics, the camp includes field games, an extreme obstacle course and self-defense training. “We’re talking old-school camp activities,” says Cathy Perrotto, scout and camp coordinator at the Delaware Museum of Natural History. “Those kids are going to get dirty, get tired and have a great time.”

Wilderness Explorers is one of the museum’s most popular programs for 3rd- to 6th-graders. Campers embark on a series of adventures in the woods, meadows and wetlands adjacent to the museum. There is no Google Maps for these kids. They make their own using compasses and orienteering skills. “We’re not sitting inside looking at computer screens,” Perrotto says. “Getting messy is half the fun of camp.”

Map making plays a pivotal role in many of the Delaware State Parks camps. Kids 7-15 learn to build shelters, track animals and make fires. Campers need those skills and others at the “Survivor”-style camps at Brandywine Creek State Park in Wilmington, Lums Pond State Park in Bear and Killens Pond in Felton. Kids ages 8-12 learn to purify drinking water, build fires and create primitive shelters. At Killens Pond, older kids (12-15) can spend the night in those shelters. “How cool is it to build a fort and spend the night in it—inside a state park?” Wickert says. “Of course, we have real tents on hand in case something goes wrong.”

Cape Henlopen in Lewes has a similar camp, Operation Fort Miles. Kids ages 10-12 learn to create codes and break them, use a compass and camouflage themselves as they go on rescue missions. Wickert reports a rise in requests for such “extreme” summer camps. “There’s a big increase in kids who want to go rock climbing, which is the focus of Alapocas Run State Park, and white water rafting, which we do in trips to Pennsylvania.” 

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Water sports play a huge role in camps at state parks. Canoeing and kayaking are also popular at Delaware Nature Society’s camps. While fish and frogs make aquaculture fun at Abbott’s Mill and DEEC, cows, sheep, pigs and chickens are the main attractions of Delaware Nature Society’s programs at Coverdale Farms in Greenville. “Kids love animals but don’t have opportunities to feed them and clean up after them,” Fischel says, “which is fun if you don’t have to do it every day.”

Kids interested in more exotic animals head to the Brandywine Zoo’s camps. Junior Zookeeper Basics (ages 8-10), one of the zoo’s most popular camps, will be expanded this summer to meet demand. Through the program, kids get hands-on experience in caring for mammals, reptiles and insects, says Melody Whitaker, the zoo’s assistant curator of education. “Many kids think that all you do is play with animals and that’s not true,” she says. “Zookeepers create diets, monitor animal behavior, design exhibits and do a lot of maintenance. Campers learn about those tasks, then put their knowledge to use by shadowing staff members.”

Kids can build on those skills at the zoo’s new camp: Animal Handling. Kids 14 and older learn how to hold tarantulas, transport bearded dragons and present rainbow boa constrictors for the zoo’s shows. The goal is not only to educate kids but to encourage them to become zoo volunteers. “Even if they don’t volunteer, we hope to foster an appreciation of conservation and wildlife,” Whitaker says.

Younger kids (ages 6-10) can learn animal basics at zoo camps like We Like to Move It! and Food Chains, Poo and Bugs, Too! “Hey, it’s part of nature,” Whitaker says with a laugh. “You’d be surprised how fascinated kids are by animals’ bodily functions.”

Animal education is an important part of camps at the Delaware Museum of Natural History. In its Most Extreme Camp, 1st- and 2nd-graders learn about the fastest animals (cheetahs), the strangest-looking animals (tusked, horned and antlered mammals), those that live in the hottest environment (lizards) and the coldest (polar bears). And don’t underestimate bees. They are smarter than humans believe them to be. “Bees communicate by dancing,” Perrotto says. “Kids learn the bee waggle dance, come up with their own code and communicate with other camps. They have to do it in the dance code of the bees.”

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Storytelling is another big way that experts inspire kids to learn about nature. Brandywine Zoo has Tales of Tails for 5- to 10-year-olds and, for kids ages 6-10, Fantastic Beasts and How to Care for Them, named for the book by J.K. Rowling. Delaware Nature Society offers Wizards & Lizards, its Harry Potter-inspired camp for 9- to 12-year-olds. When the Potter series ended, Fischel and her colleagues announced that Wizards & Lizards would also end. Fifty kids signed a petition protesting that decision and appealing to the camp director to offer the camp indefinitely. “Nothing could’ve made me happier,” Fischel says. “That’s how we know children love their summer camp experiences.”

Delaware Summer Camp Guide 2017

*denotes 2016 dates and rates 

4-H Camps*
Newark, Middletown, Georgetown, Harrington, Selbyville and Rehoboth

Activities: nature education, animals, photography, cooking, camping
Ages: 4–8
Duration: 3 days, weekly with overnight options, June–August
Price: $110–$310

Alapocas Run State Park
Wilmington; 577-7020
Activities: rock climbing, nature
Ages: 8-16
Duration: weekly, June–July
Price: $275-$325

Alley-Oop Skim
Activity: skim boarding 
Mini session: 3 days, June–August, ages 5–12, $225, Dewey Beach
Full session: 5 days, July–August, ages 6–16, $400, Delaware Seashore State Park
Overnight training camp: June 19–22, ages 12–16, $1,000, Dewey Beach, 227-7087

Bellevue State Park*
Wilmington; 761-6963 
Activities: hiking, fishing, nature education, extreme sports, photography, volunteerism
Ages: 4-15
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $100-$330 

Biggs Museum of American Art*
Dover; â€‹674-2111, ext. 101
Activities: painting, sculpture, drawing
Ages: 6-9
Duration: weekly, July
Price: $125-$150

Blue Rocks Baseball Camps
Wilmington; â€‹888-2015
Activities: baseball
Ages: 5–13
Duration: 2 days, June–August
Price: $99

Brandywine Creek State Park*
Wilmington; â€‹655-5740
Activities: nature education, science, outdoor adventures, water sports
Ages: 4–14
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $125-$260

Brandywine Zoo*
Wilmington; 571-7850 ext. 209
Activities: animals, nature education, art
Ages: 4–17
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $205-$335

Cab Calloway Summer School of the Arts
Wilmington; 766-3411
Activities: theater, fashion, music, dance, writing, science
Ages: K–12
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: N/A

Camp Arrowhead*
Lewes; â€‹945-0610
Activities: arts, sailing, nature, Christian emphasis
Ages: grades 2–11
Duration: weekly and biweekly, June–August
Price: $345-$1,035

Camp Arrowhead*
Newark; â€‹266-7266
Activities: Newark Arts Alliance camp for visual and performing arts
Ages: 7–12
Duration: weekly, August
Price: $225

Camp JCC*
Wilmington; â€‹478-5660 ext. 441
Activities: arts and crafts, nature, sports, drama, Israeli culture, music, dance
Ages: pre-K–grade 9
Duration: June–August
Price: N/A

Camp Manito (Wilmington)*
Camp Lenape (Felton)*
​764-2400; 335-5626

Activities: United Cerebral Palsy of Delaware offers swimming, arts and crafts, sports, technology and music for people with disabilities
Ages: 3–21
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $130-$175

Camp New Hope*
Newark and Georgetown; (800) 838-9800
Activities: Delaware Hospice’s camp for children who have lost a close loved one
Duration: N/A
Price: free

Candlelight Theatre Summer Camp*
Wilmington; 475-2313
Activities: musical theater
Ages: 12 and older
Duration: one week, July–August
Price: $525

Cape Henlopen State Park
Activities: animal and nature-themed camps 
Ages: 5–11 | weekly, June-August | $70-$250 | 645-6852

Caravel Day Camp*
Bear; 740-4333
Activities: art, swimming, computers, sports
Ages: grades 5–13
Duration: 3 days or weekly, June–August
Price: $135-$195

Clear Space Theatre Company Camp*
​Rehoboth Beach; 227-2270
Activities: theater
Ages: grades 1–12
Duration: weekly, July 11–Aug. 12
Price: $325–$350

Delaware Aerospace Academy*
Smyrna and Newark; 834-1978
Activities: oceans, dinosaurs, space
Ages: grades 1–10
Duration: weekly, June 19–July 14
Price: $150-$650

Delaware Art Museum*
Wilmington; 351-8551
Activities: ceramics, painting, sketching, cartooning 
Ages: 6–12
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $450–$560

The Delaware Center for Horticulture Help (Horticulture and Environmental Leadership Program)
Wilmington and Montchanin; 658-6262, ext. 107
Activities: gardening, environment, hands-on projects
Ages: grade 8
Duration: 2–3 weeks, June–July
Price: free

The Delaware Contemporary*
Wilmington; 656-6466, ext. 7101
Activities: painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media
Ages: 7–18
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $225–$265

Delaware Dance Company
Newark; 738-2023
Activities: dance, musical theater, crafts, games 
Ages: 3–adult
Duration: weekly, biweekly, June–August
Price: $135–$490

Delaware Museum of Natural History*
Wilmington; 658-9111
Activities: nature education, engineering, art, adventure
Ages: grades pre-K–8
Duration: June–August
Price: $130–$275

Delaware Nature Society*
​Hockessin, Greenville, Milford, Wilmington and Newark; 239-2334
Activities: nature education, water sports, horseback riding, cooking, photography
Ages: 3–15
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $67–$570

Delaware Soccer Camp*
Newark; 533-5441
Activities: soccer
Ages: 3–18
Duration: weekly, June–July
Price: $245–$575

Delaware State University*
Dover, 857-6824
Activities: science, sports, business, robotics, food biotechnology
Ages: grades 1–12
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $20–$1,000

Delaware Technical Community College*
Wilmington/Stanton, 302-453-3041
Dover, 302-857-1400
Georgetown, 302-259-6330

Activities: STEM subjects, engineering, photography, Spanish, illustration, sports
Ages: 4–17
 (varies based on location)
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: starting at $95 (varies based on location)

Delaware Theatre Company*
Wilmington; 594-1100
Activities: acting, improvisation, voice, stagecraft
Ages: 8–15
Duration: 2 weeks, June–August
Price: $500

Easter Seals Camp Fairlee*
​Chestertown, Md.
Activities: wall climbing, ropes, water sports, horseback riding for adults with disabilities
Ages: 6–adults
Duration: 5-, 6- or 12-day sessions, overnight, July 9–Aug. 31
Price: $1,360-$2,500 | (410) 778-0566

First State Ballet Theatre*
Wilmington; â€‹658-7897, ext. 3851
Activities: ballet, crafts
Ages: 4–22
Duration: 1- to 4-week sessions, June 26–July 28
Price: $200–$1,200

Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay
Various locations

Activities: outdoor fun from archery to horseback riding and more teach leadership and problem-solving skills
Ages: 6–18
Duration: weekly June–August
Price: $200–$400 

Hockessin Athletic Club Summer Camps*​
Hockessin; â€‹766-7482 ext. 155
Activities: exploration, sports, martial arts, tumbling, yoga, dance
Ages: 3–12
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $59–$313

Hockessin Montessori School*
Hockessin; â€‹234-1240
Activities: sports, arts and crafts, science, technology, dance, drama
Ages: 1–12
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: N/A

i9 Sports*
Dover, Newark and Middletown; 894-3751
Activities: basketball, cheerleading, soccer, flag football, baseball
Ages: 7–16
Duration: weekly, July–August
Price: N/A

Kay’s Kamp*
(888) 539-3413

Activities: arts and crafts, sports, games and fishing for children with cancer
Ages: 4–17
Duration: July 22–29
Price: free

Killens Pond State Park*
Felton; 284-4299
Activities: nature education, water sports, rock climbing, hiking
Ages: 6–12
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $150–$175 

Lums Pond State Park
Bear; 368-6989
Activities: nature education, water sports, rock climbing, crafts
Ages: 4–14
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $75–$330

Mid-Atlantic Ballet
Newark; 266-6362
Activities: ballet
Ages: 4–adult
Duration: weekly, June 19–Aug. 11
Price: N/A

The Music School of Delaware*
Wilmington and Milford; 762-1132
Activities: music instruction
Ages: pre-K-adult
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: N/A

Newark Parks & Recreation
Activities: sports, arts, dance, theater, nature education
Ages: 5–15
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $79–$333

Painting with a Twist Camp
Lewes; 313-5769
Activities: Through painting, games and other fun activities, campers will explore the world by sea June 26-30, animals at the zoo July 17-21, and plants and critters from the garden
Ages: 7–12
Duration: Aug. 7–11
Price: $40/day, $200/week

Sanford School
Hockessin; â€‹475-8013
Activities: sports, computers, dance, nature, fashion
Ages: 3 ½–14
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $295–$395

Shoestring Productions of Brandywine Valley*
Wilmington; â€‹762-0505 
Activities: musical theater
Ages: 6–16
Duration: weekly, June–July
Price: $120–$380

Tatnall School Summer Camp
Wilmington; 892-4347
Activities: science, technology, sports, sewing, chess, dance, arts
Ages: pre-K–grade 12
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: N/A

Tower Hill School Summer Programs*
Wilmington; 472-7370
Activities: sports, academics, technology, sewing, woodworking
Ages: grades pre-K–8
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $125-$525

Trap Pond State Park*
Laurel; 875-5163
Activities: nature education, fishing, hiking, canoeing
Ages: 6–15
Duration: weekly, July–August
Price: $150–$275

University of Delaware
Newark; check website for phone numbers of various camps. 
Activities: sports, science, robotics, cooking, music, academics, nature education
Ages: Grades 1–12
Duration: 3 days and weekly
Price: varies

White Clay Creek State Park
Newark; 368-6900
Activities: nature education, sports, adventure
Ages: 4–14
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $100-$225

Wilmington Friends School*
Wilmington; 576-2998
Activities: sports, nature, performing arts, fine arts, technology
Ages: grades pre-K–9
Duration: weekly, June–August
Price: $290–$400

Wilmington Montessori School
Wilmington; 475-0555
Activities: nature, sports, cooking, singing, field trips
Ages: 1–14

Duration: 3-5 days, June 19–Aug. 19
Price: N/A

YMCA Camp Tockwogh 
​Chestertown, Md.
Activities: horseback riding, sailing, water sports, leadership
Ages: grades K–9
Duration: weekly, overnight, June 21–Aug. 18
Price: $950–$1650

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