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Clarkes Summer Adventure Explore the Outdoors

It is the perfect night—one for the postcards. The stars, untouched by harsh city lights, twinkle like glitter in the sky; lightning bugs mingle and glow around a crackling fire; sizzling flames seem to orchestrate the campers’ giggles and whispers, as the storyteller gestures for everyone to settle down and listen. She leans in and inquires, “What’s your story?”

“Calling all Artists, Athletes, Actors, and Adventurers: What’s your Story?” Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech asks its campers, for their annual camping theme. For the past thirty-five years, Clarke Schools has been hosting the ultimate summer adventure for deaf and hard of hearing students ages 9-14.

Summer Adventure is a two-week camp program specifically for children with hearing loss who use listening and spoken language. The program always begins around the second Sunday of July, and is run at the Williston School in Easthampton, Massachusetts—a small private school that is experienced in housing several summer camps. Summer Adventure holds about twenty-four campers per summer, but is only growing.

Guided by a theme that differs every year, campers at Summer Adventure are encouraged to express themselves in unique ways and subsequently connect with others through their chosen creative expression. Those who they connect with will be friends for a lifetime. Clarke’s Summer Camp, for many children, is the only place where they are with others who face the same struggles and experiences they do; they are most likely the only ones at their schools who are deaf or hard of hearing. At camp, they don’t have to explain “what that thing is on their head,” or “why they can’t hear like other kids can.” The staff—experienced teachers of the deaf and young adults who having hearing loss themselves—are only there to further facilitate this comfortable environment. Campers who struggle with their hearing loss or homesickness find immense support in these young adult staff members—many of them being former Summer Adventure campers themselves. The camp also accommodates to any conflict that might pop up, providing audiological services and even special services such as a private dining room, where campers can hear each other as opposed to eating in a loud cafeteria.

At Summer Adventure, campers experience traditional camping activities—cooking, field days, swimming, scavenger hunts, zip lining, and more—and also activities that are special to the camp’s annual theme. For this summer’s theme, “What’s your Story,” the students will be visiting Easthampton’s local newspaper, listening to story tellers (who also have hearing loss), visiting an artist’s studio, workshopping with a circus performing group, walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, and so much more. Campers will also practice expressing themselves through whichever outlet resonates with them, such as delivering a newscast or drawing a comic strip. There are also electives, like cooking, crafts or sports, where the children will form meaningful connections with their peers. Past themes have been Clarke World Tour, and Get Psyched About Science.

All pictures were found on Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech website.

Everyday, campers will blog their experiences through a protected website, where parents can log in and see what their children are writing and view photos. Staff also sends out e-mails with updates and photos, and campers are allowed to call home during the weekend. The rest of the time, the campers are working purely on developing friendships and conversing with others. On the last day of Summer Adventure, there is a closing program and luncheon for parents and guardians, where campers do short performances and give testimonials.

The program cost for Summer Adventure is $1,295 ($725 as a day camper) that covers food, lodging, and activities expenses. Summer Adventure 2014 is now full, but you can join the mailing list here to be notified about next year’s camp and other events throughout the year.

The fun isn’t only for the younger kids. Clarke Schools also run a four-day program for teenagers in grades 9-12 called Explore the Outdoors! From August 3-6, campers meet at DAR State Forest Campground is Goshen/Western Massachusetts for hiking, swimming, and exploring adventures. The teenagers get a real camping experience—no electricity and no smart phones. They learn how to cook their own food over a fire and sleep in tents, all while making lifelong connections with each other. Explore the Outdoors is run by experienced teachers of the deaf and young adult role models.

The program cost for Explore the Outdoors is $350 per participant, but after June 19, 2014, it is $395. This year, Explore the Outdoors will have closed registration at twenty campers. There is still space available, but the program is almost full! Register online or email Kaitlyn Millen ASAP.

Sign up and hear some camper testimonials for Explore the Outdoors (grades 9-12) here.

Receive more information about Summer Adventure (ages 9-14) here.

For information inquiries for Summer Adventure, email Martha A. deHahn or call at 413-587-7387.

For information inquiries for Explore the Outdoors, email Kaitlyn Millen.

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