With both my boys needing more stimulation this summer than daily visits to the park and game time with their nana, we researched day camps to find some that had great activities, a safe environment and wonderful organizers and leaders with good child to leader ratios.
Our elementary school sent home a flyer about The Amazing Rainforest in Bolton which looked promising. Its summer schedule offered a variety of themes that had appeal to young and older children – such as Lego, Photography, Gadgets and Gizmos – some were offered in French too! Their website didn’t offer very much information about their program and we asked our friends but no one seemed to know much about it so we stopped by their location in Bolton in the spring to talk to the owners.
I think our boys feel in love with it the moment we walked in. With a larger than life electronic race car track, a computer lab, arts and crafts (ie. wax hands and modelling) and live lizards, snakes, turtles to learn about as well, we felt our boys would have a lot of fun and possibly learn a few things as well. So we signed them up for Gadgets and Gizmos week along with a buddy. (I was thrilled to learn that lunch was provided in the cost and was delivered by the Italian restaurant around the corner – spaghetti and tacos were on the menu!)
For their week in August – the junior camp (ages 5 and 6) built robots out of recyclable materials and painted them. The senior camp (ages 7 to 12) constructed handheld fans with batteries, wires, electrical tape and a popsicle stick. Together both groups made origami. What blew my mind was near the beginning of the week the children paired up and prepared a speech about one of the animals in the rainforest. Little did I know that these presentations were videotaped and then played back to the parents on the last day of camp. My boys never tell me anything – for example it was only when I attended the open house on the last day of camp that I found out that my 8 year old son and his buddy along with the senior campers had learnt to play the drums – And they did an outstanding performance in the dark with just their hands glowing! And there was my just 5 year old making a presentation with his new 6 year old buddy about the lizard!
Cooperative learning and performing
While I was a bit concerned about signing my boys up for a camp that I knew nothing about – and was primarily held indoors, my worries were put aside at the end of each camp day when they came home and told me how excited they were to go back the next day. Plus on the last day of camp (having signed a permission slip on the first day), the leaders took the 20 campers to the Albion Conservation Area for the day – where they played soccer, capture the flag, hide and seek and splashed in the new splash pad.
In speaking with the owners who are teachers, they are clearly well organized folks with a passion for working with children. Their love for education was evident as they helped the children with their reptile presentations, explained how to build their fans, helped them learn new activities and led them through musical lessons. Poor behaviour – including not listening – was not tolerated as my boys quickly found out. (I did hear about this as my youngest tells me most behavioural issues.)
We will definitely be sending our boys back to The Amazing Rainforest camp – they made new friends and had fun while learning a few new things. I hope the organizers will offer a program over spring break and maybe something for children and their parents!