SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. – With an expanded series of summer camps offered this year, Fanwood-Scotch Plains Y is proving it is once again fun to stay at the YMCA.
The organization’s 2016 summer lineup includes sports, dance, enrichment, and excursion camps for children as young as age 2 ½, and up to age 14.

Summer programs at the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA are held from June 27th to August 26th, and include traditional day camps, but now also feature even more camps geared towards education.

Many of the new or revamped enrichment camps this summer focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as the Y joins the rest of the nation’s movement to learn and teach these subjects.

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According to the U.S. Department of Education, “It’s more important than ever for our youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information. These are the types of skills that students learn by studying [STEM].”

The YMCA’s recent focus on STEM programming is part of their “Hop the Gap” initiative, aimed at helping to trim the achievement gap between children in higher and lower income households, according to Shannon Frank, camp director at the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA.

Nearly half of the country grows up in low income households, according to the YMCA, and by the fifth grade, those children could be two-to-three years behind kids in middle-income families.

“The Y is doing their part,” Frank said, “In offering some programming over the summer to help close that gap for kids in the community.”

Though STEM is under the spotlight now, Frank said those subjects have always been part of the traditional camps at the YMCA, and will remain key elements. 
“We had those activities embedded in camp,” she said, “Now it’s just a matter of pulling those pieces out of the traditional day camp and offering them separate, so it can be offered for a longer period of time. Instead of focusing on STEM for a half an hour each day, now it’s a whole week long of STEM activities.”

The camps run on very flexible schedules, and are all only a week long, so children can get their fill of math and science in the morning, swimming and gymnastics in the afternoon, and then mix and match a new combination for the next week.

“I encourage all families to pick a week,” Frank said, “See how they like it, and if they have a great time, which they do, then just come back and register for the next week.”

On top of all of the learning and fun activities children will relish this summer at the Y, both Frank and Heuck agree that new friendships truly make the experience special.
“They can be themselves, be with friends, and try a little bit of everything,” Frank said.

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