Johns Hopkins Gazette: August 4, 1997

Summer Fun, Hopkins
Style Camp:
For some, Hopkins
is the hot spot
to stay cool as
summer sizzles

Christine A. Rowett
News and Information
During a recent drama class exercise on the Homewood campus, Lysa Wieman and Erica Addison portrayed a talk show guest and a translator. Addison, playing a foreign visitor, answered questions from "audience" members while Wieman interpreted. When asked to explain Addison's reply to a query about what she and her friends wear everyday, Wieman told the group that the foreigner had described "making clothes out of seaweed and old macaroni and cheese."

As audience members squealed with laughter and delight, drama leader Lisa Frank, 18, attempted to quiet the group and gain some control. It's a difficult task when the audience, like the players, is made up of 9- and 10-year-olds attending one of their last days at the Hopkins Summer Day Camp.

Launched in the mid-1960s, the camp is open to children of Hopkins staff, faculty, friends, alumni and neighbors. More than 200 campers, ages 5 to 12, enrolled this year, for daily activities including swimming, tennis, lacrosse, soccer and baseball. When it began the camp was limited to Hopkins employees; it has since grown as the athletic center and locker room space have expanded.

"The nature of our camp has remained pretty much the same since it started: we're a sports camp," said Bob Babb, Hopkins football and baseball coach and one of the directors of the six-week summer program. "Yet what I've tried to do is make it accessible and enjoyable for those kids who are not the greatest of athletes and who don't love sports as much."

The campers are divided into groups of no more than 11, based on age, size and sex.

"One of the nice things about our camp is that we are probably as racially and ethnically diverse as any camp you'll find," Babb said.

Additional activities include art and drama classes, field trips to area museums and a few movies.

Ten-year-old Alex Pirino, who is quick to offer that her mother works in the History of Art Department, liked playing tennis and lacrosse the best.

"The athletic center is very quiet in the summer; there's just not a whole lot going on," Babb said. "The camp makes it very noisy. There is a higher level of energy here when the campers are around."

The program employs about 40 instructors, including a group of Babb's baseball players who were looking for summer work. Teen-age counselors in training, traditionally campers who have spent past summers in the program, work on a volunteer basis.

There were a few days this summer, Babb says, that the heat hindered the enjoyment factor of outdoor sports activity.

"When it was 100 degrees out there, that was just brutal," he said. "But it doesn't seem to affect the kids as much as it does the staff. Even if it's raining, but no thunder and lightning, we'll go out on the Astroturf and play baseball. The kids don't seem to mind."

Babb's summer day camp job actually begins in January, when parents receive brochures about the program. Applications are returned in January, and by March he has started hiring his staff. Once the camp begins, the instructors take over, and Babb oversees daily scheduling and problem solving.

"The whole idea for the camp is to allow the kids to have a good time," Babb said. "We don't want it to be something they dread. We want them to enjoy themselves. If you're overly strict and overly regimented, that's not fun."

There have been times, however, when the genial coach has been called upon to dispense discipline to unruly campers.

"Just coming into my office usually scares them," Babb said. "I tell them if I have to talk to them again, I'm going to call their parents. That usually changes their attitude."

When he started heading the program 15 years ago, Babb had little experience with young children. Now a father of three, he says he had a lot to learn back then.

"You learn that children can be the biggest manipulators in the world if you let them," he said. "But all in all, I think 99 percent of the kids are innately good; they want to be pleasers."

He has also learned that where there are diverse children, there are diverse parents.

"Not every parent sees things the way I see them," Babb said. "Some may see one thing as a big deal and I don't. I always try to listen and understand their perspective. I may not always agree with it, but I'll listen and consider it.

"There are some overly protective parents," he added. "But they are paying to send their son or daughter here. We don't want to alienate them."

Cami Robertson said she has been attending the camp for "about 10 years." A counselor in training this year, Cami prefers not to reveal her age. She does, however, admit that she doesn't mind being away from her older brother during camp hours, and she is hopeful the experience will offer her future opportunities.

"It'll get me a lot of jobs later on," she says.

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