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Apr 092009

By Sommer Saadi
Green Right Now

Want to spend the summer restoring a wildlife habitat on the Dolores River? There is a camp for that. Or would you prefer learning first-hand how to cultivate a thriving organic farm? There is a camp for that, too.

With more than 5,000 overnight camps and more than 1,400 teen tours across the nation, there is a camp to suit the interests of almost every child. But we’re not talking basic glue noodles to paper, play tether ball and call-it-a-day sort of camps. We’re talking traveling the world, adapting to foreign cultures, nurturing wildlife and embracing conservation.

And the best part is these summer options are incorporating green practices and green teachings into every aspect of their programs.

“Most parents want to make sure their child comes back from camp with community service or academic credit, ” explains co-founder Peter Ross. is a new website that provides expert advice, online recommendations and testimonials from parents and campers on more than 300 of the best summer camps and teen travel programs.

“Often that credit takes the form of some environmental program. That could be anything from studying species migration to building a dam to help supply water to a village.”

“There really is a green theme throughout a lot of these camps,” Ross says. “And parents are certainly happy when their child is doing something like studying the ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands. That’s a life experience.”

Most camps on ChoiceCamps accept applications on a first come first serve basis, and nearly every camp listed on the site still has space available. Be sure to ask about any deals the camps may be running or any sibling or friend discounts they might be offering.

Choosing the Right Camp

With so many options, you want to be sure you’re signing up for the camp that best suits your family.

The most important thing is that you are matching the child to the camp. Certain programs are meant for certain kids, Ross says, so you’ll want to consider these three major points:

1. What does your child really want to get out of their summer break?

2. How long do you want your child to be at camp? Camp stays can range anywhere between five days to more than 30 days, but two week long programs are most popular.

3. Where is the camp located?

It’s also important to decide whether you’re looking into the more traditional overnight camps (usually for younger children) or a more travel-oriented our for teens. Teen tours generally include a community service component, a travel component or a language component – and often it’s all three. Some adventures accept kids at young as 13, but the majority caters to 16- to 18-year-olds. The groups are often smaller (10 to 40 campers) and the staff to camper ratio often higher.

Because teen-oriented trips feature more traveling than traditional camps, they tend to focus on interacting with the environment and methods of preservation (like “leave no trace” camping), says Ross. Overnight camps, on the other hand, can focus on stressing the importance of green practices like organic farming.

Here are a few of Green Right Now’s favorite Overnight Camps and Teen Tours: