Parents have many options when choosing where to send their children to summer camp. One interesting option lies right in our backyard … the government-run recreation centers. The state, county and local governments of D.C., Maryland and Virginia all share a unified goal to offer their residents clean, operable facilities in their recreation centers and quality sporting and recreational programs for all ages. However, all areas offer a little something special to distinguish their summer camp offerings. Here is a look at some of the summer camp programs at the recreation centers within each area.

District of Columbia

The District of Columbia Parks and Recreation (DPR) operates and maintains the recreation centers in all four of the city's quadrants, with its main office located at the Columbia Heights Community Center in N.W.

In D.C., the summer camp programming spans nine weeks, from June 18 through August 17, 2018. DPR participates in the free summer meals program by offering free breakfast and lunch to summer campers at select recreation centers throughout D.C. All summer camps offered at recreation centers are available to children in any jurisdiction, with the exception of REC camps. REC camps are weekly offerings of diverse, hands-on learning experiences in a fun environment. REC camps are for residents of District of Columbia only. The cost is $40 per week, for up to 8 weeks of summer camp.

One of the most interesting components of DPR summer camps is their focus on Drop-Everything-And-Read, known as "D.E.A.R." reading activities, which are extensions of the national celebration of D.E.A.R. each April. The D.E.A.R. program, based on author Beverly Cleary's character, Ramona Quimby, encourages families to drop everything they're doing, cozy up to a book and read together. At summer camps, children are asked to drop everything to focus on independent reading.

Maryland

There are numerous things that distinguish summer camps at recreation centers in Montgomery County. The first is the governing body that operates and manages summer camps. The Montgomery County Department of Recreation, also known as Montgomery County Recreation (MCR) is one entity; a separate entity is Montgomery Parks, which is a subdivision of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Though the governing bodies operate independently of one another, both organizations publish their summer camp offerings within the same guide. Second, there are fewer recreation centers in Montgomery County than in other jurisdictions. However, both MCR and Montgomery Parks offer a plethora of fascinating summer camps at area elementary schools and at nature centers.

The third most interesting distinction of summer camps at recreation centers in Montgomery County is the opportunity given to teens ages 14 - 18 to work at summer camps, learn leadership skills and gain service learning hours. Teens may also participate in the Summer Leadership Challenge by participating in interactive workshops that explore independence and problem-solving.

Fourth is a unique concentration on therapeutic recreation. MCR offers indoor and outdoor activities to youth and teens with disabilities in a smaller, structured camp settings. Fifth is the opportunity given to people age 14 and up to receive specialized training to volunteer as mainstream inclusion companions. These companions provide support to individuals with disabilities during MCR programs. And finally, the sixth most interesting aspect of summer camps in Montgomery County is the Summer Fun Centers. According to Communications and Public Outreach Manager, Carmen Berrios Martinez, "We have summer fun centers that provide a variety of activities such as arts and crafts, sports, games, music and drama, special events and weekly swimming. They operate from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. and the six-week program costs just $395. That's less than $1.32 an hour."

Virginia

The City of Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities manages and operates recreation centers, also known as neighborhood centers, whose summer camp programs are limited to residents of the City of Alexandria. The City of Alexandria is further subdivided into Historic Alexandria, which features numerous historical and educational programs and summer camps.

The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) manages and operates the recreation centers in seven cities throughout the county. FCPA offers summer camps staffed by FCPA personnel as well as private vendors. All listings appear in the print magazine, Parktakes, as well as online through a searchable portal and registration program. An interesting feature of FCPA summer camps is its 6-week Rec-PAC summer program, a structured recreation program that emphasizes leisure and rotates fun themes on a weekly basis.

The Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation manages and operates the recreation, also known as community, centers in Arlington. According to Publications and Public Relations Manager Martha Holland, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of summer camps at the community centers in Arlington County is its offering of "unique opportunities for girls in career areas that have traditionally been dominated by men, such as HERricane Arlington- Emergency Management Camp for Girls Ages 13-17, Camp Heat: Girls Fire Camp- working with Arlington County firefighters in an overnight camp (ages 15-18) and Coding for Girls (ages 8-14).

Parents should welcome the opportunity to delve into summer camp programs at different recreation centers outside their home county. Unless the program specifically limits its offerings to its own residents, parents can safely assume their children are eligible. Be sure to visit the websites of all government bodies within the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to find a fun summer camp for your children.


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