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Summer camp programming for elementary & middle school aged youth

Many of us have to get creative when planning for summer camp & summer program activities for elementary aged youth, especially with regard to space & activity planning. Here are some tips for creating portable activities. Think of filling a milk crate with the things you need for an activity that you can take with you to the park, to the beach, the library or even the school yard.

While some of the resources are local, to Philadelphia, you get the gist and can search for similar places where you run your summer programs.

Let me know if you use any of the activities and how you make out with your portable classrooms. Send photos, too!

If you’re looking for items to create portable centers, check out these resources & ideas:

  • Local grocery stores – ask them for the empty milk crates- have staff decorate their own crate.

  • Create a donation center at your location NOW and ask families to bring in/donate items like: egg cartons, soda bottles, paper towel rolls that can be used for art/STEM project; or books they are no longer reading, even toys that could be pulled apart or reused.

Places to get items to fill those boxes:

Resources for Activities: A great website for STEM activities is called It’s also an APP so counselors and staff can access these activities right in the palm of their hand. The activities range from very little preparation, to lots and lots of preparation. Activities can be searched a wide range of ways including by: Age, group size, cost per activity, etc.

This website provides a ton of activities that are perfect for camp programs. There are printable worksheets and even videos of counselors singing camp songs.

The list below is from and provides links to easy to use & fun summer activities for elementary school youth.

Science: Summer time is the perfect time to get students outside and explore! These activities will allow students to practice their exploration and observation skills in the great outdoors.

Math: Math concepts is by giving students the opportunity to learn by using food. Use these math activities and lessons to teach your students math using a variety of of foods.

Art: While art projects are usually done inside thought out the school year, try making these crafts outdoors for a change of scenery. You will find a variety of easy to make crafts and projects for all ages.

Language Arts: Summer school is the perfect time to let students use their imagination and explore their creativity. Use this time to have students practice writing poetry, use their descriptive writing skills and write in their journal.

Social Studies: To help your students continue to grow their knowledge in social studies, have them partake in variety of fun activities and lessons. Students will enjoy getting hands-on experience while learning about maps and other cultures in the following activities.

Summer Reading: A great way to kick off every morning in summer school is to have students begin the day with a good book. For elementary students in grades k-6 this usually means having the students choose a picture book. Use the following book lists to help you fill your classroom with age appropriate books your students will enjoy all summer long.

Summer Printables: Summer isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Use these fun puzzles, word searches and coloring pages when the weather is just not cooperating outside.

Summer Field Trips: It’s going to be hard for any child to stay motivated in summer school when all of their friends are outside playing. A great way to keep students engaged in learning is to take them on a field trip. Use these articles to help you plan a fun outing for your elementary school students.

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