Summer Camp ❥ Valley Gems

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser Banner

Note 3: Summer Camps ‘Round the Valley

Biocitizen of Westhampton, MA takes day campers around the Pioneer Valley to explore the five ecoregions of the Nonotuck biome.

I can most certainly argue that one of the best things summer has to offer both kids and adults is time to do nothing much at all (even get, gasp, bored). Without a smidgen of contradiction, I can also argue in favor of the summer camp experience.

Around here, there are some gems.

Around now—July, in its ripe berry fullness—I am feeling the love for those gems, even if I don’t have current campers in every one of them. This is a short, entirely empirical list of some favorites.

❥ From for the youngest to for the oldest, I have an abundant number of warm (also, sticky) memories of picking my eldest boys up at the Montessori School’s summer preschool program with its expansive yard, toys on neat trays in the classrooms, and muddy grass by the wading pools. That new people adored my small kids (when I was a relatively new parent) gave me warm (not sticky) feelings.

This summer, none of my kids is attending Marion Abrams’ Summer Art in Hatfield—known to many as the Art Barn. Think chatty knitting circle punctuated by chase games at snack or lunchtime, the chance to make art all the day long with more emphasis on process than product. And tuck this story into your back pocket: one afternoon my second guy came home and I asked, Lucien, did you cut your hair? “Yes,” he answered, “to use as a paintbrush. Erin didn’t think her mom would like her to cut her hair so I cut some for me and some for her, too.” There’s a retro sense of freedom here few camps can claim.

Click on the banner to discover more summer camps & programs happening throughout the region!

Remy spent a week as a Biocitizen, a tiny camp in which the cohort goes exploring—high in the hills, low in the Meadows, off to the Peace Pagoda, or on the river—and while scampering across rocks (and other things like that some parents would rather not think about too much) learn about the local terrain. Once home and rehydrated, Remy would ask, “Did you know…?” every single afternoon.

For the tween-to-teen set there is DASAC (or, Deerfield Academy Summer Arts Camp), which is a friendly, creative community for young people and as close to overnight camp as day camp gets. Three weeks long, with ideas and hugs up the yin-yang and songs and inside jokes and just… bliss. That this camp was dreamed up in a Hampshire College dorm room makes it only the sweeter and that kids from all over the Valley meet here, well, icing on the cake. People started to tell us our eldest would love DASAC starting when he was still in preschool. Indeed, he did (now the second one is loving it).

❥ The chance to change it up offers unexpected discoveries. Remy, playing tennis with the Northampton recreation department befriended a boy (similar level player, similar age) from Europe. Quoting my eight year-old: “We both love devil sticks.” I’m so glad the school year is still a ways off.


Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah is a writer, who lives in Northampton with her husband and four children. She contributes to Preview Massachusetts Magazine, as well as other publications and writes a parenting blog Standing in the Shadows at the Valley Advocate. She moved to the Valley to attend Hampshire College—and found the Valley such a nice place, she stayed!

4 Comments on “Summer Camp ❥ Valley Gems

  1. Okay, I have to shamelessly promote my husband’s camp cause I think it’s such a great experience for kids. Earthworkprograms offers camps that focus on nurturing nature awareness and developing wilderness living skills while building a child’s self confidence of being in the woods and developing a sense of inner wealth (Nurtured Heart). Kids learn to build debris shelters, track each other and wildlife, create fires without matches, learn the art of becoming part of the forest (aka getting really muddy and hiding:) Oh I could go on but instead just go to to learn more.

  2. My son Sam went to Biocitizen last summer and did more walking than he ever thought he could enjoy but did enjoy it a lot. Although his appreciation for Emerson never increased, he had some happy conversations about him and Thoreaux while being in the middle of nowhere. I think it was an experience that he will never forget.

  3. Next week my son is off to Camp Howe in Goshen as an overnight camper for the first time. Fingers crossed that all goes well.
    Went to their open house and was really impressed by the staff.

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