Classroom Tips

Summer camp curriculum | Ideas and lesson plan themes

For summer camp owners and educators, springtime should be used as prep time for summer. Beyond the logistics of creating a budget, setting business goals, and hiring and training staff, you need to think about what you will actually do with your campers all summer long.

Before you can start planning individual summer camp activities and writing lesson plans, you need to plan your overarching summer camp curriculum. Even if you are not running an academic camp, curriculum planning is a great exercise to ensure your activities are organized and engaging for campers all summer long. Looking for more support to jumpstart your camp? Check out our ultimate guide to starting and running a kids camp.

Summer camp curriculum ideas

When you are planning your summer camp curriculum, it is important to zoom out. What does one camp session look like for your program? Is it one day, one week, one month, or more? Each session that campers participate in should have its own curriculum. 

The goal is to create a curriculum that has a beginning, middle, and end. When writing a curriculum, make sure you establish goals that you wish for the campers to accomplish by the end of the session. For example, if one pottery camp session lasts one week, then you can make your curriculum goal that each student produces their own wheel thrown pottery piece by the end of the session. Then, you can work backwards to write your lesson plans and plan your activities accordingly to reach that goal.

Use these summer camp curriculum ideas for different types of camps.

  1. Focus on exploration. One of the best parts of camp (and after school programming) is that there are no grades. Even if you are teaching coding or another academic subject, you can still make your curriculum goals focused on exploration. This helps children find more joy in what they are learning.
  2. Make creativity the star. Another summer camp curriculum idea is to focus on creativity. This is a great idea if you are teaching art or music, but it can be useful for all types of camps. If children are allowed to be as creative as possible, they might find themselves learning even more than in structured lessons. 
  3. Include physical activities. If you are running a sports camp, physical activity is a given, but it can be beneficial for all types of camp curricula. For example, if you are teaching science lessons, you might find that children remember and engage more in what they are learning if they can get up and move around. Let them act like electrons, neutrons, and positrons to create atoms. They will have fun and remember the lesson better in the end!
Photo of summer camp curriculum

Summer camp lesson plan themes

Once you have your summer camp curriculum sketched out, you can begin to write your lesson plans. Since this is camp and not school, it’s best to have some fun with your lessons! We recommend coming up with summer camp lesson plan themes that fit with your curriculum goals and let children enjoy learning. Here are some of our favorites lesson plan themes.

  1. Superheroes. Can you teach science, coding, art, music, soccer, or something else with a superhero theme? Of course you can! And your campers will love it. Have them dress up and learn about the heroes and villains in your subject.
  2. Holidays. Have a fall/winter holiday redo! Getting to celebrate their favorite holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day in the middle of the summer makes learning so much more fun for children. Bonus points if you include some lesser known holidays along the way like Pirate Day, Opposite Day, and more!
  3. Olympics. We had the Olympics in 2021 and 2022 this year, so it is still top of mind for children and adults. You can incorporate light competition into your lessons in light of the recent Olympics to keep your campers engaged and having fun throughout. Playing games actually enhances learning, so it’s a win for everyone.

For more guidance as you work on your summer camp lesson plans, check out our full guide.

Running a summer camp requires a lot of planning and organization, but seeing the smiles on the faces of your campers makes it all worth it. If you are looking for guidance on how to start a summer camp or the administrative side of running a camp, Sawyer is the best camp registration and management software for both in-person and online camps. 

With our suite of tools, like signup forms to record allergies and t-shirt sizes, various payment options like gift cards and installment plans, and seamless registration on any device, Sawyer saves camp owners 28 hours per month. If you are ready to spend less time on admin and more time doing what you love, see how Sawyer can help with a free trial or demo.

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