Which Outdoors Camp?

Parent Q&A

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  • All-outdoor camps for 2022?

    (7 replies)

    Hi, I'm looking for all outdoor camps for elementary school grades in Oakland or Berkeley for 2022 and would love recommendations. Any great ones for hikes, nature walks, outdoor education, maybe also with some crafts and play time in an all-outdoor setting? I see some recommendations for 2021 and past years, but in case some closed due to the pandemic, I'm looking for recommendations for camps that are still open.

    There are a lot! Here's our list: Trackers, Sees the Day, Cal Explorers, Berkeley City Camps, Kids for the Bay, A World of Peace, Wild Ones Art Camp, One Generation, Monkey Business. Some of these are on our list of camps we want to try but haven't yet. We've done:

    - Trackers: focus on outdoor skills, all outdoors, they do a great job teaching how to be responsible in the outdoors including leave no trace principles, how to be safe about things like knives. They throw in some cool fantasy stuff, like there was a dragon theme day over winter break where the kids searched for "dragons" (actually birds), and that makes it really fun for younger kids. This is the one I'd recommend the most for nature and hikes.

    - Cal explorers: they had a little bit of indoor time but mostly outdoors with a huge range of activities - sports, arts and crafts, science/nature projects, dance, usually they have swim lessons but they canceled last year because of COVID. 

    - Berkeley camps: they have a few different ones, with a range of activities and prices. We did one of the playground-based ones and it was simple but fun - lots of free play on the playground with some arts and crafts and sports activities mixed in. Some of their camps go to more nature spots like the marina and tilden, we want to try one of those this year.

    Most don't have registration open, except for Trackers which is already full for most weeks!

    My son was just at Trackers (trackersbay.com) this winter break and absolutely loved it! Everything was outdoors, it was fun, and well organized. Last summer, he went to Cal Youth Camp, which was all outdoors as well, he got to play a lot of different sports and made friends. My daughter went to Monkey Business Camp in Tilden Park, and everything was outdoors in nature. They played games and made crafts, and she really enjoyed it!

    My kid loves Sees the Day camp, which takes place in Tilden Park. it's all outdoor, there's some hiking (nothing too strenuous), outdoor education and storytelling and tons of outdoor free-play. https://www.seestheday.org/

    Our family loves Adventure Day Camp. It's in Moraga, but they have a bus service that picks up and drops off in Montclair. It's not as much about outdoor education per se as it is just about having a lot of fun outside all summer. They do have some hikes, as well as arts and crafts, swimming, horse riding, boating, archery, and so on. In non-Covid years they also do a campout, though I'm not sure they'll be doing that this summer (they didn't in 2020 or 2021). 

    +1 on Wild Ones Art Camp. Pamela is wonderful, great setting exploring East Bay parks, art and hiking and enjoying nature. My son enjoyed it. They also offer school break camps too! (https://www.wildonesartcamp.com/) Pamela also creatively re-uses materials for projects, greener/smaller footprint, which I appreciate. 

    Last summer we also tried Call of the Wild camp (https://www.inspirebehavior.com/east-bay-outdoor-camps-reading-camps-wri...

    I've heard great things about Trackers but never could register in time (see other post re already mostly full). Not sure what the travel times are now in this COVID world, but had heard previously from friend's kiddo who did not like amount of time spent on the bus. 

    Our family loves Call of the Wild Camp in Berkeley and Oakland. They are all outdoors and focus on both nature education and play and exploration with hikes, nature walks, scavenger hunts, games, an outdoor library of sorts with book reading, storytelling and nature journal activities that include drawing/coloring. My son loves the mix of outdoor education and free play.

    We had good experiences in 2018 & 2019 with Monkey Business at Tilden, and a good experience in 2015 with Roughing It at the Lafayette Reservoir (bus service from Berkeley/Kensington/Oakland), both all outside. Monkey Business just opened registration for summer 2022. Not sure about Roughing It, which is a bit more expensive, so it dropped off my radar.

  • Hi BPN,

    Our pod is splitting up, so we're exploring other options for our 2nd grader. We're looking for an outdoor, masked situation in a stable group, for around 6 hours a day for 3-5 days a week that can complement the Distance Learning curriculum provided by the public school (we would stay enrolled). We're less concerned about the academics, but really look for an enriching, fun program where our kid can socialize and do things they would normally not get to do in a regular school year. Our kid loves being active, exploring nature and making things. We find it important there is social/racial justice integrated into the curriculum and a diverse student/teacher body. 

    I heard good stories about Forest School and Trackers Micro School. Can anyone share their experience there post-covid (so probably not the summer camp situation) or have you heard of other programs we would want to look into?

    Thank you.

    Our son is at Hello Hills, which is offering a multi-age program (age 5-10), 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. They have two openings right now - capacity is 12 kids. We love it. The hours are 9-3, so it isn't compatible to signing into zoom class, but I know one family at our school and another at BFS who are staying enrolled in public school - I think they just do zoom class some days and come to school a little late on those days. We aren't doing DL because our son would be in TK and it didn't seem worth it. 

    Their COVID protocols are good - kids wear masks most of the time (off for eating and when they are spread out), they do a screening for symptoms/behaviors and temp checks every morning, and they encourage all families to keep closed bubbles outside of school. Kids don't maintain distance from each other all the time, but with the outdoors and masks we feel comfortable with it and we are pretty risk-averse about COVID.

    100% thumbs up for Trackers! My son (K) went to Trackers summer camp for the first time and since September has been in the Outdoor Adventure program twice a week from 1- 6 pm. They are super COVID-19 safe and my son comes home with excited reports of exploration and cool skills like archery, carving, hiking, etc. I am so grateful for Trackers both for my son's benefit, and for their superb management behind the scenes. They are responsive and creative in support of families during the pandemic. They are now enrolling for second term starting in late November into Feb 2020.

    Another promising option is Outside School which meets in Alvarado Park

    I have the perfect program for you: Outside School! It runs Tu-Th, 9am to 3pm, at Alvarado Park in Richmond, and can have 8 children attending (currently there are 3 kids, including my daughter, so there's room). It's all outdoors and masked with social distancing—and it's been amazing. The kids hike all around the park, explore, climb trees, learn about plants and insects, try to catch fish in the stream, whittle sticks, try to identify scat, take breaks for snacks and reading, and walk up to visit the cows and see the view across the bay—and much more. All of this is facilitated by Heather Taylor, who is a very experienced outside educator and all-around cool person. (I actually met her through her equally cool husband.) Every day Heather emails out a detailed report with photos and stories about their adventures—makes me wish I could ditch my laptop and join them. Currently, my third-grade daughter does the Berkeley public school curriculum all day on Monday and Friday, and from Tuesday to Thursday, she attends the morning Zoom meeting with her class before bounding out of the car and into the park. On those days, she does her regular schoolwork after Outside School, which is fine with the teacher just as long as she turns in her work before the end of the day. I'd be happy to talk with you if you have questions about any of this. Here's the website: https://www.teachoutside.org/outside-school-main 

    My 1st-grade daughter is in Jewish Community Center's camp, usually held in Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland.  I believe that JCC has several options in different locations.  Camp runs from 1pm to 5pm, five days a week, so that's close to what you're looking for.  The one our daughter goes to is pretty good.  It's the same folks who used to run the after-school enrichment program at Joaquin Miller Elementary School, when we had in-person school.  So they have experience with kids.  I will say that t's not a very richly developed curriculum.  But the important thing is that my daughter gets to play with other kids and run around outside, in the park.

    My daughter did summer camp with Trackers, and they were awesome, with great teachers and well developed activities.  And I have a friend with her son in Forest School, and they like it a lot, especially the social justice curriculum.  The JCC option is probably cheaper and not as well organized or well taught.  But it beats sitting at home all day.

    I have two kids in Trackers--one is a first grader, the other is in third. They've attended part-time since preschool (we were home schoolers even before the pandemic). They are both active and outdoorsy, and I'm pretty confident that attending Trackers is the highlight of their week.

    I can't speak to whether or not social/racial justice is formally integrated into the program, but the students and teachers are a diverse bunch. You could probably give them a call and chat with a staff member about this. 

    Since Covid, masks are worn except when eating, everything happens outdoors, temperatures are taken at drop-off, etc.

    If your kid enjoys moving, imaginative play, and being outdoors, Trackers would probably be an excellent fit for them.

    Our 5th grader has done a half day Trackers program this fall and enjoys it. They are quite organized and reliable and we've had good experiences there for many years. I don't think there is much of a racial or social justice curriculum at Trackers however. And I don't find the kiddos who go to trackers particularly diverse.  There is a Forest school that I think is anchored at Gill Tract that is much more social and racial justice oriented, and while we haven't gone to their programs, they seem pretty awesome and worth checking out.

    The program at gill tract is East Bay Solidarity School - I talked with them and it sounded amazing. (We ended up choosing a different program because it had more days/hours, but otherwise were very interested in the program.) It's 11-4, 3 days a week, so it would work really well with keeping up distance learning in the mornings. Very focused on social justice and diversity, and of course lots of great outdoor activities. http://www.eastbaysolidarityschool.org/

  • Outdoor activities for 7 year old boy

    (5 replies)

    Hello, I am a 100% single mom of a 7 year old boy who is really feeling lonely being an only child and fatherless. I would love to find a group of kids who do outdoor stuff together but don't require my presence every time. I looked into the Cub Scout but they require the parent to be there for meetings and outings/camping trips. Me and my son spend so much time together, I think it would be beneficial for him to be away from me sometimes (and I also need to be alone sometimes ;) Is there anything like this beside Boy Scouts ? I'm looking forward to your suggestions !

    I was just reading about these weekend programs through Trackers that sounds pretty cool. At age 7, it's one weekend day per month and no parents. Maybe you could check that out? https://trackersbay.com/youth/weekend-mentoring.php

    Have you looked at Trackers, near the Ashby BART station? They have great outdoor, drop-off programs. Both of my kids have had a great time with them.

    My father volunteered with the Boys and Girls Clubs for many years. You might want to look into that. I might also suggest joining an outdoor social/hiking club (an alpine club or Sierra Club, for example) where he can meet other kids his age and hang out with kids and families who are engaged in hiking and other outdoor activities. There's a NatureFriends Tourist Club in the East Bay. It's not a mentorship program, but there are people with cultural and professional skills who might engage with your son. It's not a place you could leave him unsupervised, but there's a community feel amongst the organization's members, which are part of a larger institution across Europe and other territories/countries. Berkeley Family Camp also provides opportunities for parents and children to get together and socialize in the outdoors. 

    I believe Trackers (in S Berkeley) has an all-day apprentice program that meets once a month on Saturdays. I was considering it for my son too, esp since he’s loved all his Trackers experiences. Good luck!

    I suggest you look into Trackers.  I think they have one Saturday a month without the parent.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Hiking outdoor summer day camp for 9.5 yr old girl

April 2012

Does anyone have a summer day camp that is outdoor based with hiking that can be recommended? My almost 10yr old daughter has asked specifically for this type of day camp but I am having a hard time finding anything. We are in Oakland. We would also need aftercare. Also, any input on ''Touch the Earth'' an outdoor day camp in Joaquin Miller..Thanks! a mama

Have you looked at Trackers , http://trackersbay.com/youth/summer-camps.php? Some of their programs are going to have a bigger hiking component than others - I'd bet a Rangers week would be good. They do have extended care until, I believe, 6:00. Hiking Mama

This Land is Your Land fits the bill (the name alone!) This is the summer camp offered by Sarah's Science. My kids have attended for several summers and are always itching for more. The camp is outdoors, all summer long, in local parks in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Ramon. The kids hike, swim, build forts, create interesting inventions and contraptions, and look for lizards and banana slugs. Simply put, they have fun and get dirty every day! I've met THE Sarah of Sarah's Science at camp a few times and it is clear to me that she is dedicated to the cause. She actually has written a few very interesting pieces about children and nature. See: http://www.sarahscience.com/pages/articles.html. Woody Gutherie Fan