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    > Our experience at Camp Galileo: Part 1

    Our experience at Camp Galileo: Part 1

    Kids at Camp Galileo. Photo by Camp Galileo

    Summer camp season! The irony is, summer camp fun starts as a winter conundrum for parents when they start thinking about registration. The eternal questions: where? what? how much? You want the kids to have fun but you also want them to learn something. Well, if it’s an option anyway. You also want them to feel on vacation but how is that possible when their camp hours copycat school hours? Most important for me, I wanted my girls to experience summer fun away from our beloved fog. This is called summer camp for a reason. Right?

    When Camp Galileo offered a free week of camp for my girls provided I blog about it, I was hesitant because my girls did two weeks of Camp Galileo last year and didn’t love it. It was fine but not their favorite. However a free week of camp is a pretty cool offer and it came with extended care which was great for my writing schedule. I checked the camp themes and two tickled my curiosity, Lost in the Forbidden City and Inventor’s Workshop so I signed up. Here’s my review based on  our experience, broken down in part 1 – the practical details and part 2 – the program content and how my girls interpret it a few weeks later.

    The location

    Crystal Springs Uplands School. Photo by Frog Mom

    On the sun radius, San Francisco was not an option but anything south of San Mateo was a reliable bet. I picked Hillsborough and couldn’t have been happier about the location. My girls used their sun hats every single day. That campus, oh my, I want to be 12 again!

    This year the Hillsborough location was Crystal Springs Uplands School, a manicured property whose offices are headquartered in a 1917 mansion built for Templeton Crocker. Roughly 10 minutes off the Black Mountain Road exit off 280, the school is nestled in a neighborhood of beautiful houses and a maze of curvy streets (easy to get lost there). It felt clean, safe and had a great outdoors space, features that count to a parent. A-OK on the location.

    On the first day we were late (I got lost in Hillsborough) and once at the school, I couldn’t even find the building where my girls were going to be doing camp. There were two options and I walked up to the wrong one first! Fortunately someone redirected us quickly to the right building and we found the camp staff who signed us in quickly. They had our names, checked it and walked my girls to their morning classes.

    With extended care, I could drop off my girls starting at 8am and pick them up until 5.30pm. I did take advantage of the early hours and parked the car to walk my girls to the front of the school. It was not even a hundred yards to walk and I was back in my car on my way to work.

    Afternoon pick up bins. Photo by Frog Mom

    For standard hours (8.45am – 3pm), I tried once the morning drop off that takes place between 8.45 and 9am. It was an easy drive through experience where you just drive up to the front of the school and camp teachers open the car doors to welcome their campers – by name.

    In the afternoon, it was easy to sign out my girls downstairs. All their backpacks and lunch bags were neatly stacked in bins (the teachers threw a “tidy bin” contest and the kids really took to it) and we didn’t even lose a clothing item the whole week!

    As far as hours, I’d say that a 9am start is standard but 3pm is really early. It’s only a 6-hour day and that doesn’t leave much time if you don’t take the extended hours option.

    Personability and staff
    This was something that totally blew me away. At the end of the first day, the camp teachers and one other teacher knew my girls’ name without looking at their name tag. On the second day, they looked up their names at morning drop off but after that, none of the Galileo staff needed the name tag at all. I understand the ratio of students to teachers is pretty low but still. How do they remember so many kids’ names?

    As far as the staff, they all looked on top of their game, knew the kids, knew what to do and were energetic kids (teachers are mostly in their 20s or so it seems). Good vibes!


    The art class for Stars. Photo by Frog Mom 

    At Camp Galileo, camp weeks have themes and each age group (Nebulas, Stars, Supernovas) studies the same theme with age-appropriate activities. During our week the theme was “Lost in the Forbidden City” and kids spend roughly half the day in classrooms studying Chinese culture, architecture and science techniques.

    The facilities were spotless and there’s nothing I didn’t like about them except … in all honesty, I’m not particularly fond of kids in rooms with ceiling neon lighting when it’s bright and sunny outside. Ah well, that’s what happens when camps set up shop in schools.

    To counterbalance the school classrooms, the campus had a fantastic large grass area where a lot of activities took place, a heaven for any kid who wants to practice somersaults or cartwheels. My girls said they spent a lot of time there or in the trees so I was happy.

    I was lucky that I got treated to a free week but for my girls’ age, the standard rate is $519 per child including extended care. In my experience, that’s pretty high. Camp Galileo does offer scholarships (a friend of mine sends her son there thanks to  scholarships each year) and there are various ways to get discounts (referrals, three weeks of camp…).

    Lunch and snacks

    Have grass, will play games. Photo by Frog Mom

    And I thought we were done with sending kids with lunch bags when school finished! Alas Camp Galileo is one of those where you have to provide lunch and snacks. Not so. Lunch bag is my least favorite chore of the school year. Wouldn’t it be nice if summer camps took care of that so parents felt on summer break too?

    According to my girls, Camp Galileo handed out fruit snacks a few times  to kids whose lunch wasn’t enough to get them through the day, but it didn’t seem to be regular. I would love if Camp Galileo could at least take care of snacks.

    End of part 1
    I think I’ve covered the practical side of Camp Galileo. Part 2 of the review will have all the lowdown on the contents, camp songs, activities and learning process. If you have specific questions about it, drop me a note and I’ll try to reply.

    Disclaimer: in case you were wondering, this is my honest opinion. 

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