On Thursdays, the sounds of giggling and cheers of excitement from children echo throughout the playground and fields of Sangster Elementary.
They’re sounds that have become familiar to Carly Bryson and Jeff Speed, youth programmer and program supervisor with West Shore Parks and Recreation, that puts on free summer roving camps at different locations throughout the week.
As part of the camp, kids play a variety of games and interact with others, beginning with a morning circle to welcome kids. The unstructured nature of the camp allows West Shore Parks and Recreation to host special events. For example, Colwood Fire Rescue paid a special visit to the roughly 48 kids at the camp, allowing them to explore a firetruck, try on gear and test the truck’s hose last Thursday.
According to Bryson, the camp gives kids a chance to develop the necessary skills to become well-rounded youth.
“Our society is moving towards sitting in front of the TV, giving kids an iPad to keep them entertained and kids are learning less and less how to entertain themselves and how to be creative and creating opportunities themselves to build relationships,” said Bryson.
“This environment puts them in a situation where they have to get outside of their comfort zone to make a new friend. They have to entertain themselves and sometimes that just means playing in a big open field with friends.”
The camp has grown in popularity in recent years, with the number of kids ranging between the high 30s to low 40s daily. Many days, the camp has been maxed out with 50 kids. Because it’s free, the camp gives kids from all backgrounds the chance to participate.
“[We wanted] to provide camp and recreational options to people that maybe aren’t in a demographic to afford a summer camp,” Speed said.
The camp has received high praise from participants as well.
Sisters Sharon and Stefanie Peat have been coming to the camp for the past three years, dropping in twice a week to get to know people in the neighbourhood.
“I like all the games we play when we go in our circle,” said 10-year-old Sharon.
Twelve-year-old Stefanie agreed, adding she also enjoys playing with the new friends she’s made.
On Mondays, the camp runs at Centennial Park in View Royal, Spencer Middle School on Tuesday, Willway Elementary on Wednesday, Sangster Elementary on Thursday and Lakewood Elementary on Friday. The program runs from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. every week until Aug. 28
No advanced registration is required, but is on a first-come first-served basis. Interested participants should be at the designated site around 9:30 a.m.
For more information visit westshorerecreation.ca.