When imagining a school in the summer, the picture is usually a languid one—empty classrooms and quiet hallways. A visit to BB&N's Upper School this summer turns that notion on its head. The reason? BB&N summer camp.
Since 1949 (that's 69 years!) the school has operated a summer camp in some capacity, but in recent years BB&N's day camp has grown into a full-service smorgasbord of activities for campers of all ages and interests.
Speaking with camp director Colleen O'Connor P'13, '15, '17, '19, her excitement about the direction of the camp program is clear. "We leave here happily exhausted every afternoon, because every day is different and so involved," notes O'Connor, who has been a significant part of running the camp for 14 years, the last three as the hands-on director. "It's become a year-round job because I want every camper to have the best experience possible, and that takes planning."
The camp admits children from ages four up to 10th graders, offering three separate programs: classic camp, sports camp, and specialty camps. This summer, that variety of options has led to an enrollment spike as never before, peaking with 437 campers through the doors during the last week of July.
The classic camp offers the typical fare: swimming, movement and music, arts, archery, sports, nature, and science activities, but also includes a few twists. Specially themed days have been added to the mix such as "Spirit Thursday" and "Wow Wednesday," the latter a camper favorite that includes field trips or in-house entertainment—a recent example being an African drumming and dancing group.
The sports camp, staffed by BB&N coaches, offers crew, soccer, and basketball. It's an option that O'Connor says many rising middle school students take advantage of as a way to get acclimated to school sports and gain a familiarity with the coaches.
Most recently, specialty camps have been developed under O'Connor's direction to cater to older campers. These feature more academic activities such as chess, photography, stop-gap animation, STEAM (science, technology, engineering and math), and ecology.
"I'm really proud of all the fun and inventive ways we've built the camp up in the past few years," O'Connor says. "We try to find something for everyone, and in recent years, the specialty camps have really helped our program flourish in that regard."
And flourish it has. The camp has garnered respect and an excellent reputation within the community despite minimal advertising, which O'Connor attributes to the fantastic staff and their Cambridge location.
"I think people are drawn to the BB&N name, and all of the peripherals that come with our location in Cambridge...the Harvard and MIT association certainly help to pull families in. It's a great, diverse group of kids, from BB&N students to campers from the surrounding areas and beyond," notes O'Connor. "This year 26% of our campers are from international families. So, word has spread."
Despite the myriad offerings and wonderful facilities, O'Connor believes the true secret to the camp's success is the staff. Most of the counselors are working teachers from the surrounding areas, but a smattering of older BB&N students and alums round out the roster.
"We spend a ton of time and effort all year attracting engaged counselors who we know will be a great fit and help build the best atmosphere. They're the heartbeat of the camp...the camaraderie and spirit they bring is just fantastic," she says. "Our biggest enrollment month is always July because so many students have a great experience in June and want to come back in July and August. A huge part of that is due to the counselors."
The smiling faces and bustle of activity say it all. Although BB&N might be "closed" for the summer, the Upper School is clearly "open" for fun.
Click here for a photo gallery from BB&N's summer camp.
Click here for more information about the camp.