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Vermont Humanities Expands Summer Humanities Camps to Fourteen Schools

Image of campers at Irasburg camp

The Vermont Humanities Council is pleased to announce that it has awarded fourteen grants for its popular Humanities Camp summer program to bring learning and fun to youth statewide. The thematic, week-long day camps for students aged 11-14 will take place in schools across twelve of Vermont’s fourteen counties. Thanks to generous private funding, this is the largest number of camps offered in any summer since the program began twenty-one years ago.

“The need for these camps is enormous,” said VHC Executive Director Peter Gilbert. “Vermont ranks last in the nation for the percentage of low-income children who participate in academic and enrichment programs outside of school time. With less access to such learning opportunities, those children fall further and further behind their better-resourced peers.”

Vermont’s rural landscape, Gilbert noted, also creates greater need for programs like Humanities Camps. “Because Vermont is tied with Maine for having the most rural population in the country, distance and transportation challenges prevent many students from experiencing summer opportunities that are educationally and personally enriching. Humanities camps held at local middle schools make that possible.”

Schools awarded Humanities Camps this year are Brattleboro Area Middle School; Camels Hump Middle School (Richmond); Canaan Schools; Castleton Village School; Grand Isle School; Irasburg Village School; North Country Union Jr. High School (Derby); Northfield Middle High School; Richford Jr.-Sr. High School; St. Albans City School; St. Johnsbury School; Stowe Middle School; Waits River Valley School (East Corinth); and Windsor Schools.

Humanities Camps are week-long summer day camps that focus on reading, discussion, and fun activities that bring learning to life for students in a relaxed group setting. The camps help youth explore the world of literature and ideas, fostering self-expression in a safe, nurturing environment.

Schools receive funds for two staff to serve as camp directors who design the curriculum around a chosen theme, recruit participants, and run the week-long summer day camp. The schools also receive funds toward supplies and field trips, and sets of gift books on the camp’s theme for each of the campers.

The camps revolve around themes chosen by VHC and selected by applicant schools. Three themes are offered in 2017: Brown Girl Dreaming (focusing on VHC’s 2017 Vermont Reads book, a poetic memoir about growing up); It’s a Mystery (delving into myths, legends, and unsolved mysteries); and Food for Thought (exploring food traditions at home and around the world). Students each receive a set of books, related to their chosen camp theme, to read and to bring home to keep.

Reading lies at the heart of each camp. Participants also take part in engaging, hands-on activities built around the reading, such as writing, thematic games, creative art projects, and making and enjoying recipes that reflect the camp theme. Campers meet with special guest presenters, go on field trips to museums, and visit college campuses, opening windows to new possibilities. Most camps close with a culminating event for students to share what they have learned. The activities, both inside and outside the school, help build students’ self esteem as they make connections between the words on the page and the larger world.

Camp week is often a profound experience for both students and teachers, whose interaction transcends the traditional classroom. Camps help strengthen teacher-student and peer relationships, and help foster renewed and changed attitudes about learning.

One camper in a 2016 camp on Ancient Greece wrote, “Humanities Camp helped me see myself differently as a learner.  I used to think a lot of learning was boring but this camp showed me learning can be a lot more fun and interesting than it’s cracked up to be.”

For more information about Humanities Camps, contact Ali Palmer at 802.262.1352, or visit the Humanities Camps page on our website.