Camp Galileo explores the lost art of, well, art through week-long summer day camps designed to teach kids something other than reading, writing and arithmetic. Focusing on three areas - art, science and technology, and the outdoors - Camp Galileo offers hands-on activities that are not only fun, but educational as well.
Founded in 2002, Camp Galileo is one of the area's fastest-growing summer camps with 15 locations in the East Bay, South Bay and Peninsula. The Alamo/Danville camp, located at San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church, is the East Bay's newest.
Camp Director Kristin Bevington said the camp's first week was an absolute success and her camp looks to be right on par with the other 14. Campers recently finished "African Art & Building Big," the first of this year's three week-long themes, which also include "Modern Masters & Invent It!" and "Medieval Arts & Ocean Explorers."
Many of the activities at Camp Galileo are inspired by professional artists, inventors and builders.
During one of the "rotations" (campers rotate daily through art, science and outdoor stations), first and second-graders built chicken feeders in the most complicated ways possible, an approach borrowed from Pulitzer Prize winner Rube Goldberg's cartoons.
Adrianne Smith, 9, is signed up for three weeks at Camp Galileo, ensuring she experiences each of the three themes. While experimenting with abstract expression art, made famous by Jackson Pollack, Adrianne said she enjoys working with unconventional learning methods.
"It's different," Adrianne said. "I really like to do art because we don't really get to do that at my school."
Adrianne's fourth-grade classmate, Russell Milin, 10, said the only time they got to do art activities in school was when they earned it.
Bevington, a middle school science teacher at Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, has worked with numerous camps and sees their benefits over school.
"You can make learning as fun as possible at school, but you're still going to have to give tests and quizzes," she said. "At camp you let the kids go wild and crazy, but they still learn at the same time."
Glen Tripp, founder and CEO of Galileo Educational Services, started Camp Galileo to provide kids with an opportunity to learn in a creative way and discover new things about themselves.
"It's about meeting kids where their passions are," he said. "We want to teach them real skills, but teach them in an open-ended way that includes many solutions."
Although elementary teachers include hands-on learning activities in their regular curricula, the focus is primarily on language and math, leaving art and science with limited emphasis. Tripp said he agreed reading and writing are important, but he also wanted to make sure other aspects important to child development were not lost.
Tripp credits a qualified and passionate staff, which is comprised of graduates from prestigious schools including Stanford, the University of Southern California and Harvard, for the camp's growing success.
He also points to a well-planned camp curriculum developed months in advance and with help from partners The Tech Museum of Innovation, de Young Museum and Klutz for bringing campers back year after year.
"It's about choosing excellence over scale," Tripp said. "We're trying to achieve higher staff and parent satisfaction."
In addition to Camp Galileo, Galileo Educational Services also funds The Tech Museum Summer Camps. The Alamo/Danville camp is currently in session and still accepting enrollment. The camp runs through Aug. 10.
Chris Vongsarath can be reached at (925) 416-4818 or at firstname.lastname@example.org