CSU Continuing Education Gears Up for Summer Camp with Unprecedented Amount of Options

Kim Wade

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

When Columbus State University’s Continuing Education department decided to host summer camps on their campus almost 10 years ago, they thought it would be a great way to build a connection between the university and the children in their community—a connection that would lead these students back to their campus once they began their college career. And now, not only do they have evidence of those connections, but they have built one of the most impressive collections of summer camp offerings in the entire state. 

Better known as Activ8 STEAM and Sports Summer Camps, the program features more than 200 camps in one summer with 18 to 20 different camps offered each week during the 10-week session. These camps range in everything from robotics, to cooking, becoming certified in CPR, sewing, photography, physics, Legos, forensic science, law, sports, pop culture and the list goes on and on. 

Most camps take place on campus at the Elizabeth Bradley Turner Center, but according to program coordinator Samantha Gurski, with so many offerings the camp has become so much bigger than just CSU’s main campus. 

“I love my work in Continuing Education; we offer education for everybody. Activ8 summer camps are a fantastic way to help our younger community members have fun and learn something at the same time. It’s our way of encouraging them to be lifelong learners.”

A catalog with a list of all the offerings is located here. But to help break things down a little, Gurski explains how each age group is divided and what campers can expect. 

“The camps are divided into three age ranges—Academy (4-7), Activ8ers (8-11), and Between 2 Teen (11-14)—and the camps run from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. each day.”

Gurski says they also offer supervised before and after care so campers can come as early as 7 a.m. and stay as late as 6 p.m. 

Children ages 4-5 and 6-7 will be in the Activ8 Academy. These young campers will have a new theme each week to supplement the arts, crafts, games and songs.

“Each week has a theme like superheroes, dinosaurs, magic kingdom and more. One theme is called Paws and Play—where we’ll have some four-legged friends come visit. And Friday is always a fun day because it’s dress up day, usually based around the theme for the week, and we always have some fun activities planned to wrap up the week.”

“Activ8ers (ages 8-11) and Between 2 Teen (ages 11-14) are split into seven categories: Brain Training, Create-A-Lot, iTech, Just4U, ShowbizScienceologies and Sports & Dance. The categories help you decide what camps to choose. … But campers can mix and match categories to design a camp experience that is just for them.”

“Older kids have the option to go to camp in the morning or afternoon, or both! The camps run from 9 a.m.-noon and then 1-4 p.m. It’s essentially a la carte—you just find camps your kids will really enjoy and that also fit your schedule. Every camp lasts a week long, so with two options per day for 10 weeks, that’s 20 camps in one summer.”

And Gurski says that while they have their main hub at the Elizabeth Bradley Turner Center, they also partner with other CSU locations like Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Oxbow Meadows, Columbus Regional Mathematics Collaborative, Schwob School of Music and CSU Athletics Center.  

"It’s a great partnership on our end. For Activ8, all the registrations and logistics are handled by Continuing Education, but we work all across campus and within the community to make sure campers have the opportunity to partake in all of CSU’s kid-friendly departments." 

While the campers are an important part of the success of Activ8, there would be no camp without the teachers.  Activ8 employs qualified instructors from local schools and the community to teach the classes. And Gurski says that many of them tell her they have just as much fun at the camp as the children do. 

Ron Fuller, one of the instructors for the camp, says he’s taught a wide variety of Activ8 camps for several years now. “I love the freedom we have to create a curriculum that's open to experimentation, fun and learning all at the same time without the added pressure of specific standards or assessment requirements,” he says. “Without state mandates and exams to influence the creative process I truly feel that this is teaching in its purest form.  It's really awesome to see some of the same kids over again throughout the summer and year after year.  That's proof that Activ8 is a positive force in their lives. 

“As instructors, we can stretch outside the usual constraints to find the most engaging ways to entertain and educate our kids.  I also love the extra connections we can make by combining different topics, ideas, and disciplines within the focus of the particular camps we teach.  By choosing camps that are part of our own personal passions instructors are able to create an excitement level that enriches teacher and student alike.  After a summer of Activ8 I'm mentally refreshed and psychologically recharged.  If the teaching profession is ‘school’ then Activ8 is my ‘recess!’”

Gurski echoes the excitement of her teachers and recognizes both short term and long term benefits to kids attending Activ8 camps. 

“It’s all hands-on engagement and so much fun they don’t even know they are learning. And at the same time, we are planting that seed by bringing them to campus and getting them excited about CSU.”