11 Summer Camps to Connect Our Kids to Their Foodshed + 1 For the Big Kids

This summer why not consider a camp that teaches your children a life skill? Arts and crafts are great, but how about learning to bait a hook, use seine nets, make butter, grow tomatoes, harvest herbs, raise chickens, milk a goat and the list goes on. By the time September rolls around, your children will be teaching you how to cast a line or how to plan a healthy back-to-school lunch. We have gleaned a list of 11 of the more intriguing summer programs available to Long Island children. The 12th camp on our list, Wine Camp, is for us. Think of it as a sort of Sideways on the North Fork.

1. Shark Camp

If your kids are totally jazzed by Discovery Channel’s Shark Week then you might want to look into O’Seas Conservation Foundation’s Shark Camp. O’Seas Conservation Foundation was founded in 2013 by Dr. (and Captain) Craig O’Connell and his wife Dr. Nicole O’Connell. The primary mission of their camp is “to educate and inspire our youth through innovative and engaging hands-on field activities.” What could be more engaging than shark diving (in the safety cage at the Long Island Aquarium) or studying the habits of our local selachimorpha from the deck of their 25-foot vessel, the Battie O, just off Jones Beach? Campers (6th – 12th grade) also learn about longline fishing and fishing from a kayak, shark tagging, taking shark blood samples and skin biopsies and will participate in a boating safety and GPS navigation course. Wow.

2. Dorothy P. Flint 4-H Camp

Image via learngrowconnect.org

Image via learngrowconnect.org

The Nassau County chapter of Cornell Cooperative Extension has run a popular camp in Riverhead for many years. The Dorothy P. Flint Nassau County 4-H Camp is on 140 acres of beachfront, woodlands and a 40-acre working farm along the Long Island Sound. In sessions ranging from a 2-day mini camp for first timers to eight one-week sessions, campers, ages 8-16, participate in all the conventional summer camp activities: swimming, kayaking, archery, arts and crafts, drama and so forth. Campers at DPF 4-H Camp are also introduced to farming life: growing vegetables, caring for farm animals and farm-to-table cooking. Want to learn more about DPF 4-H Camp? The camp is hosting the first of four open houses this Saturday, April 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the campgrounds in Riverhead. For more information call 516.433.7970 ext. 11.

3. Captain Stu’s Fishing Adventure

three girls holding a fish

Captain Stu Paterson, of Northport Charters, runs a one-week fishing camp onboard his 35-foot boat, Sashimi. In its 7th summer, the popular, Captain Stu’s Fishing Adventure, is geared towards boys and girls, ages 8-18.  After setting sail from Brittania Yachting Center in Northport and fishing in either Northport or Huntington harbor, kids will learn the basics of fishing: catching their own bait, baiting hooks, casting, reeling in their catch, species identification, rules, regulations and safety. If they catch a keeper (and they catch plenty of keepers), they get to take it home, fileted and in a cooler.

4. Bay Days

two boys fishing

Long Island Maritime Museum, in West Sayville, has an eight-week summer program that explores the coastal environment in and around Great South Bay. Bay Days gives students between the ages of 6-11 an opportunity to encounter plants and animals living along the south shore with visits to the Blue Points Oyster Hatchery, Sailor’s Haven on Fire Island and a sail on the museum’s historic sloop Priscilla.

 5. Benner’s Farm


Benner’s Farm in East Setauket is a 15-acre private family homestead that has been farmed since the 1700s. The Benners are the seventh family to farm this historic land. In addition to a full calendar of special events, the Benners have been running a summer camp on this working organic farm for the past 17 years. Camp lasts eight weeks and offers weeklong sessions for preschoolers (half day) through counselors-in-training. Activities run the gamut from petting baby bunnies and observing butterflies to making butter and bread to assisting with daily farm chores. There is something new to be learned by every camper of every age at Benner’s Farm.

6. Suffolk County Farm

boy with dirty hands

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County offers many summer programs for students in various locations throughout the county. Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank has a full summer program for children entering kindergarten through 12th grade. Campers are divided into small groups based on age and grade level. The activities range from crafts and exploring the natural world for the youngest campers to actual farm animal care for the older campers.

7. Children’s Garden

kids in a garden

The Children’s Garden at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank has a program that meets on eight consecutive Wednesdays from 10-11:30 a.m. Children ages 5 and up learn how to grow their own vegetables in raised beds, harvest herbs for dye and culinary uses, grow strawberries and maintain a butterfly and bird garden.

8. Sea Adventures and Sea Stars

kids looking at shellfish

Campers ages 6-8 and 9-12 participating in the Sea Adventures Marine Camp at the Suffolk County Marine Environmental Learning Center in Southold Sport will explore our oceans, bays and salt marshes through interactive hands-on experiences. The eight one-week sessions include focus on specific areas; Shark Week, Marine Mammals Week and a Marine Discovery Program. Visit their website for the dates and details. The Sea Stars Marine Camp offers a similar weekly program for campers at the Cranberry Hill Environmental Center, Fuch’s Preserve in Northport with the last two weeks of July dedicated to sharks. 

9. A la Carte

kids in a kitchen

A la Carte, a full-service culinary center and cooking school in Lynbrook, has a comprehensive summer program for students age 8+ who are seriously considering a career in the kitchen. In two one-week sessions, their Culinary Arts Preliminary Series covers everything from fundamentals to knife skills.

10. Oh My Girls


Oh My Girls is a girls-only health and fitness center in Syosset. Their three one-week summer sessions, geared towards girls ages 8-18, consist of a one-hour fitness class, a one-hour creative or character building workshop, a 90-minute cooking or baking class, lunch and social time followed some quality time at their do-it-yourself smoothie bar. Special workshops include nutrition, self-defense, yoga, Zumba, dancejam, making your own skin care products and lots more. Girl power!

11. Hofstra University

hofstra camp_hofstra

Hofstra University has an extensive summer camp program. In conjunction with Nassau BOCES; their summer 2015 programs include a Culinary Arts Academy (introduction, intermediate and advanced) for students in grades 7-11 and Long Island ecology and field study in marine biology, both for grades 6-11. Hofstra is hosting a Camp Open House on Saturday April 18 from noon to 2 p.m. RSVP to ce-camps@hofstra.edu.

12. Wine Camp 

Image via dreamplango.com

Image via dreamplango.com

Why should the kids have all the fun? Wine Camp provides adults an opportunity to learn, taste and experience Long Island Wine Country. This year there are two sessions; April 16-19 and July 20-23. Who needs art and crafts when you can take interactive tours at eight of our local wineries (Bedell Cellars, Castello di Borghese, Corey Creek, Jamesport, Lenz, Anthony Nappa Winemaker’s Studio, Old Field, Paumanok and Sherwood House), sampling along the way (transportation provided), lunch al fresco in the vineyards and dine at some of our North Fork’s best restaurants. Accommodations for three nights at local B&Bs are included, as is a case of wine to take home. Sign me up!