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Durham Academy

Durham Academy’s Summer Adventures series provides athletic and academic camps to area kids ages three to 18.

photo: Durham Academy

Camping out

Summer offerings let kids explore the world inside and out

by Danielle Jackson


From sports to drama to science, there’s no shortage of summer camp offerings in the western Triangle. And in a break from traditional test-heavy school days, these camps offer opportunities for students to learn in an interactive yet relaxed environment.


Here’s a look at where students will be camping out this summer.


Carolina Friends School

The summer program at Carolina Friends School in Durham offers a variety of workshops in the arts and sciences for children ages 4 to 15.


“Students can do watercolors, learn how to play chess or build a fort with a group of friends,” says Christine Firpo, director of summer programs. “These camps give students a chance to try out new concepts in a relaxed, noncompetitive, supportive environment.”


Its Let’s Rock camp unites musicians ages 9 to 14 to form small bands, which then can write and perform their own musical compositions. Code Monkey is another camp in which students learn how to write code for their own computer games. Class sizes typically are small, averaging 12 campers for each instructor, and each workshop lasts 30 hours.


“About 60 percent of our campers are returnees each summer,” Firpo says. “They come until they grow too old to attend.”


To learn more about the school’s summer program, call (919) 384-9089 or visit


Duke School

This summer at Duke School in Durham promises to be a busy one, with camp themes spanning from athletics and drama to Lego robotics. Eligible students include those entering preschool in the fall through kids age 15.


One camp in particular stands out among the pack. Make a Difference in Durham is a community-focused experience in which campers are introduced to several organizations to learn about their various needs. Through the camp, students volunteer their time at a city-based animal rescue society, food bank and environmental group, among others. 


“At Duke School, we believe that intellectual curiosity through project-based learning propels learners to explore multiple paths to creative solutions,” says Danielle Johnson-Webb, the school’s communications manager. “These same values are used in our summer camp programs. Through both, we are preparing the next generation of bold thinkers for our complex world.”


To learn more about Duke School’s summer programs, visit


Durham Academy

Summer programs at Durham Academy provide enrichment opportunities for children ages three to 18. Its Summer Adventures series has been providing athletic and academic camps to families from Durham, Chapel Hill, and surrounding communities for several years.


“More than 35 camps are offered in everything from knitting to field hockey in a safe, supportive environment,” says Michael Ronco, director of summer programs.


Campers are a diverse group, and participants often encounter students outside of their typical peer groups. They work in small groups to tackle various challenging problems.


“Our programs help children expand their understanding of the world around them by presenting new and unique experiences,” Ronco says. “Our highly experienced staff helps campers experience successes that they often believe are unattainable.”


For more information or to register for the summer session, visit


Emerson Waldorf School

The purpose of summer camps at Emerson Waldorf School in Chapel Hill is to provide a harmonious environment with opportunities for creative play, music, games, crafts and a variety of artistic activities that are in line with the Waldorf philosophy of education.


“Although our campers will be learning, our camps are not academic,” notes Shannon O’Connor, director of summer camps. “We want to allow children to unwind from the school year and to fill their days with nature exploration, creativity, and imagination on our 54 acres of fields, forests, and farms.”


One of the school’s most popular programs is the Fort-Building Camp in which campers head off into the woods to collect branches, logs and stones to create forts, huts, and other structures from natural materials.


“As these budding engineers experiment with different materials, designs and drainage, there’s learning involved, but they’re also using their creativity and imagination and are having fun,” O’Connor says.


To learn more about Emerson Waldorf’s summer camps, e-mail or visit


Museum of Life & Science

The Museum of Life & Science offers various opportunities for campers in preschool through eighth grade to learn the ins and outs of nature.


Half- and full-day camps are offered in June through August on everything from insects and dinosaurs to Lego building, forensics, and chemistry. Summer camp registration begins Feb. 22 for the general public.


For more information on summer camps at the downtown Durham museum, visit


Saint Mary’s School

Camps at Saint Mary’s School in downtown Raleigh are offered for girls in kindergarten through 12th grade as a way to help them discover their talents, pursue their passions, and achieve their personal best.


“We are dedicated to helping them discover these things in a setting that’s both fun and safe,” says Joy Bradley, director of summer programs. “This single-gender environment creates a safe place for girls to take risks and discover new interests, whether it be in academics, athletics, or the arts.”


The school’s Biology Explorers Camp, for example, offers a week of scientific activities for middle-school girls. Activities include field trips to area scientific points of interest, the use of Saint Mary’s School’s state-of-the-art labs and computer facilities, and conversations with women who have discovered exciting careers in science-related fields.


To learn more about summer offerings, including a full schedule and pricing and registration information, visit


Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill

Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill’s weeklong athletic camps are designed for students interested in a wide variety of sports, games, and the outdoors. Camps are led by qualified directors who help students develop appropriate skills, challenge themselves and have fun throughout the process.


“They also learn the value of sportsmanship, perseverance, teamwork and competitive play,” says Jenni K. Allen, an Upper School teacher who also works in the school’s athletic department.


According to Allen, the school’s athletic camps seek to offer participants opportunities to build character, discover new interests and make new friends outside of the traditional school year.


“By participating in summer camps, students will be encouraged to pursue interests outside of their comfort zones, with the support and encouragement of the staff,” she says.


For more information on the school’s camps, call (919) 246-0962 or visit and click “About Trinity,” then “Summer Programs.” 


Danielle Jackson is editor of Fifteen501, Wake Living  and Triad Living magazines.