Instead of tapping away at iPads and cellphones, several local students will walk nature paths, shoot arrows and cook hot dogs over an open fire on fall break.
This week, 14 local youths are being disconnected from their electronics and will spend the first week of fall break on outdoor activities at the Indiana FFA leadership center on 160 acres near Trafalgar. This is the first year the group has offered the camp during fall break, and leaders expect the number of children attending to grow in future years.
Another 47 children are signed up for a weeklong day camp at SS. Francis and Clare Catholic School, where they will get technology lessons in the computer lab, learn to bake and play games at the school and church on Olive Branch Road in the Center Grove area.
The Baxter YMCA on the southside is offering four programs and has 167 children signed up, compared with significantly lower numbers when fall break lasted a few days.
With the long school break starting Monday, local churches and community organizations have started offering camps, where children can spend the day learning or playing.
The FFA camp gives working parents a fun place to send their children for a week, Indiana FFA leadership center executive director Joe Park said.
“We’re just trying to get them active and get them appreciating nature,” Park said.
A two-week break can put stress on working parents with children who are too young to stay home by themselves during the day,
SS. Francis and Clare School president Rob Richardson said. Summer day camp programs typically draw 65 to 90 kids each week. But the 47 signed up as of Monday for the fall program is beyond what officials expected because the school got a slow start in advertising, he said. The school plans to offer a similar camp over spring break.
Indiana FFA Leadership Center
Where: 6595 S. 125W, Trafalgar
Cost: $260 for one week
Activities: Archery, fishing, boating, GPS scavenger hunts, arts and crafts. Children stay at the camp for one week.
SS. Francis and Clare
Where: 5901 Olive Branch Road, Greenwood
Cost: $150 for one week
Activities: “Celebrating Sweets” including reading the book and watching “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Children also get to make their own candy.
Where: Four sites, including Pleasant Crossing Elementary School
Cost: $36 per day
Activities: Field trips, swimming, arts and crafts, games
“Most people like the balanced calendar, but it can be very difficult at times because of having to make arrangements for children,” Richardson said.
Baxter YMCA has offered “school’s out” camps for years, YMCA youth enrichment center program director Ashleigh Coster said. But when breaks were two or three days, attendance was low. This week, 167 children are signed up across four locations, including one camp at Pleasant Crossing Elementary School.
“A lot of parents try to strategically plan their breaks and can take a week off, but two is too many. Typically fall break, when it was three days, we would not see anyone,” Coster said.
The Indiana FFA leadership center hosted a camp during spring break this year and had about 16 kids enrolled, Park said. He expects both seasonal camps will grow as more people know they’re available. The leadership center, south of Trafalgar, is too remote for a day camp to make sense, so campers and counselors stay at the campground for the week. They hike trails, go fishing and boating and go on scavenger hunts around the site with GPS units.
Twelve-year-old Jacob Martin came to the spring camp earlier this year and wanted to come back for the fall. Jacob, who lives in the Center Grove area, wanted to see if there are any new activities at this camp.
“We went fishing, did archery, went boating. It was really fun, and I loved it,” he said.
Kids who live on the north end of the county don’t get to experience nature daily in the way the camp can offer, counselor Syx Russell said.
Someone who lives in Greenwood or Indianapolis doesn’t get to have the same experience of seeing the stars in the same way as being away from other houses, businesses and streetlights.