Phillips will work with the camp’s students on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the nature and science week, with visits to the University of Alabama’s Natural History Museum, Hurricane Creek and the Moundville Archaeological Site planned. The camp’s farm week will feature visits to Katie Farms, Tuscaloosa Barnyard and to Snow’s Bend Farm.
“For our art week, we’ll visit Ruth and Caleb O’Connor’s studio. It’s two or three blocks away from us. We’re able to walk to a lot of these places, such as Uptown Art,” Reinhart said. “We’ll also go to Kentuck and let the children see the other mediums of art that are popular.”
The YMCA Family Center is a smaller facility than that of Tuscaloosa’s Benjamin Barnes branch, so it cannot accommodate 200 plus children like the Barnes branch does every summer. The center is trying to accommodate for any summer setbacks that might happen for children in the area, including literacy skills, Reinhardt said.
“We’re doing our part to make sure summer slide doesn’t happen. Literacy is important in our summer camps,” Reinhardt said. “We also want to make sure every child is safe. Safety is the number one priority and goal to make sure the kids are having an enriched experience.”
The Benjamin Barnes Branch summer camp programs began on Thursday, May 31 and will wrap up on Saturday, August 5. Summer camp programs at the Barnes branch include a wide variety of activities, said Tempera Ryans, the director of member services.
“We’re offering a 'Swim to the Top' program connected with PARA and UA that teaches kids how to swim. We also have a roller derby program we’re implementing into our program this year,” Ryans said. “There is also the Ys Readers Program, the Bama Bounders Gymnastics program; a sports camp this year; tennis camp; we’ll still be taking field trips like movies, bowling and skating as well.”
The camps are held Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for children ages four to 14. The camp’s hours begin at 7:30 a.m. with child drop-offs until 5:30 p.m. at the end of child pick-up. Youth Program Director Laura Payton said the camps even arrange to bring children from summer school to the branch.
“We transport for any kid that has to do the 8 a.m. to noon summer classes. We’ll go out and pick them up and take them to the Y,” Payton said. “We have a part-time program for kids who have to go to a half day to summer school. We incorporated afternoon programs for those children.”
The Swim to the Top program offers free swim lessons four times a week for free. PARA lifeguards instruct children in age groups from four years to six years, seven to nine years and a 10 years and older group in 45-minute rotations.
The rotations include physical education as well as enrichment opportunities, Payton said. Children are able to develop decision making skills, conflict resolution skills and express creativity through making collages with curriculum developed by UA and PARA, Payton said.
“Our camps offer breakfast, lunch and a daily devotion with a YMCA prayer that we’ve been doing for three or four years now,” Payton said. “We have our four week sports camp coming in June during the afternoons. We design our programs specifically so that there’s never a time where the children have downtime, unless they’re getting water breaks or during Camper’s Choice from 5 to 5:30 p.m.”
The sports camp is lead by a church group made of up four teams from Houston, Texas, that visits the branch from 1 to 3 p.m. The group has been visiting since the April 23, 2011, tornado as a sports vacation Bible school program, Payton said.
The tennis camp is led with the help of the Tuscaloosa Tennis Association, offering free tennis lessons for children ages eight to 12 years old. Groups of about 20 children visit the Association’s outdoor and indoor tennis courts from 10 a.m. to noon.
The arts camp will feature an appearance by Northridge High School Art Teacher Richard Nowell from Monday, June 19 through Friday, June 23 for children from second to sixth grade. The four hour class will include painting, drawing as well as exposure to various art styles, Payton said.
The Ys Readers Literacy Camp begins in June for children ages four and five years old. The literacy camp for children ages six years old and up begins the first full week of July, but the branch is still confirming dates, Payton said.
“We’ve been successful at keeping the children at their reading level or raising their level,” Payton said. “The curriculum for the program comes from UA just like the Swim to the Top program.”
For parents looking to expose their children to year-round enrichment opportunities, the Family Center’s child development center offers morning and evening hours, while fitting in some exercise. The center’s morning hours are from 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Evening hours are from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
Reinhart said the center offers near constant enrichment and learning activities designed to stimulate young minds. In other words, there is no just sitting around and watching TV.
“Staff in the room are either teachers with a degree or UA students getting a child development degree, giving the children enrichment activities to do,” she said. “We want people to know that the YMCA’s mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”
The child development center is free to all for the first time. For those with family memberships, the center’s fees are included in the membership fees.
“The Y’s area of focus is committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility,” Reinhardt said. “We want the community to try out the Y and see if it’s the right fit for them.”