One local camp’s alternative is giving kids a chance to get their hands dirty in the shadow of a 19th century mansion.
The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum Adventures is a week-long summer program based in the property’s children’s garden.
The program incorporates the mansion’s history while maintaining an outdoor focus for the small group of kids capped at 12, said museum director Ellen Bruzelius.
“It all gets wrapped together: the environment, nature, history, architecture and fine arts, into a week-long, very fun, diverse group of activities,” she said.
The programming varies between three successive sessions in July, so some kids attend all three, said Bruzelius.
This summer’s activities included a lesson about bees from the makers of City Island Gold honey and a visit with a horse from the Bronx Equestrian Center who was fed carrots plucked straight from the garden.
There are craft projects like making boats to float in the mansion’s fountain, a bird walk with the wildlife manager of Pelham Bay Park, and role-playing as the Bartow family and their guests at a 19th century party.
And in addition to all these activities, each day the kids spend time in the garden, tending to and picking plants.
The outdoor focus of the program is designed to help the kids, who come from the Bronx or nearby Pelham and Mount Vernon, get familiar with nature they might otherwise not get exposure too, said Garden Educator and Adventures coordinator Lauren Gill.
“The goal is to give them a comfort level with being outside,” she said.
Caring for the plants gives the kids a great combination of physical activity and introduction to the freshest form of food, said Bruzelius.
“For city kids to be able to pick peas and beans in a garden and eat them, it’s pretty fabulous,” said Bruzelius.
The garden, which features a wide range of vegetables including beets and radishes, as well as herbs and edible flowers, is also a natural way to promote healthy eating, said Bruzelius. The kids eat the fresh vegetables off the plant in addition to getting cooking lessons.
“It makes them interested in what they’re putting in their bodies,” Bruzelius said about the experience.
One camper particularly enjoyed the “farmers market” the kids put on for their families at the end of the week
“It was just fun getting to bring some plants home,” said Jonah Sherbansky.
Another camper, Tyler Goncalves, is in his fourth year with the Adventures program and hasn’t gotten bored yet. He said he loves the gardening and getting to know the plants.
“Each year I learn a little more than the year before,” he said.
Bruzelius said she loves to see the number of kids who enjoy the program enough to come back year after year.
“I don’t think you can have any better endorsement than that,” said Bruzelius.