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Summer camp focus heads outdoors again

Bethlehem YMCA summer camp continues to grow

When you're a kid, you (hopefully) spend a lot of time doing what you're told.

That's why when counselors for the Bethlehem YMCA's summer camp program sat down to plot out the nine-week schedule, they decided that this year, afternoons would be reserved for giving their campers a choice of a number of activities.

We want the kids to do what they want to do, instead of being forced to sit out, said Camp Director Rusty Decker. "We just stick with what works and what the kids like."

The Y's summer camp kicked off last week, and about 125 kids showed out for a week of fun in the sun, shade and YMCA pool. This is just the second year the Y has held camp activities primarily outdoors, and already participation is on track to outpace last year's by several hundred campers. In earlier years, most of the day was spent in the building's gyms and other facilities.

Now, the woods behind the YMCA are crisscrossed with walking paths leading to different activity areas. Campers can spend much of their days under the forest canopy, shielded from the sun and free to get a goodly taste of nature.

Besides archery, arts and crafts and the field sports everyone instantly relates to summer camp, the Bethlehem Y has a few unique stations. Kids can go on nature walks, with informational signage about the forest posted along the trail. There's a theater group, and campers who participate end up putting on a play at the end of the week. Then there's the full complement of what the YMCA facility has to offer, including the indoor swimming pool.

There's even an outdoor cooking station, where campers get to try their hand at cooking quesadillas, pizzas and (of course) S'mores over an open fire.

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