The Next Generation in Action

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Learn more about SummerQuest.

SummerQuest is made possible thanks to the generous support of New England Biolabs and the Crane Funds for Widows & Children.

Sherri Miles is a freelance writer and editor living in the South Coast region of Massachusetts.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Special Places, The Trustees' member magazine. To subscribe, join The Trustees today.

This summer, across the gardens, orchards and rolling meadows of the Crane Estate in Ipswich, along its white sand beaches and uninhabited islands, SummerQuest campers will discover sea creatures at the edge of the world, solve a mystery on Castle Hill, survive as shipwrecked castaways, and fall under a wizard’s spell that turns the Estate into a giant playground.

By Sherri Miles

SummerQuest is entering its fifth season as a place-based, experiential learning day camp at the 2,200-acre Crane Estate, having grown from one program and 117 kids in its first year to 350 kids today, with four different programs aimed at ages 5 to 17. “Our goal has been to create a scaffolding,” say camp director Garry Dow, who joined The Trustees two years ago, “so that kids could enter the camp at a very young age and grow with the program year after year, right up through their teens.”   

The program is strongly rooted in place, but also in meaningful, interactive experiences targeted to the growth and development of the individual child. A scholarship program ensures that those experiences are open to children of all backgrounds, awarding 100 full scholarships – nearly 30 percent of total enrollment – so that children who might not normally get to go to a summer camp can attend one of SummerQuest’s four programs: Periwinkles, for grades K–2, focus on wonder, with young campers building an emotional relationship with the world. Questers, grades 2–6, set out to explore the world around them. Stewards, grades 7–8, work together on conservation projects designed to inspire action in their own lives. Finally, for grades 9–10, Educators in Training go beyond action to the idea of service and giving back to the community.                        
The Stewards and Educators programs are important areas of growth for SummerQuest. Says Dow, “We wanted to build the next step of the scaffold and now challenge these young adults to work together, to find common ground, to seek out compromise, to think critically, to look beyond themselves, and to follow their curiosity to where it might lead.”
Martin Hedberg, 13, has done all of that and more in his two summers as a Steward. Last year, he helped construct a new working flower garden on the Crane Estate, and the year before, he and his fellow campers built a raft out of reeds and driftwood found on the beach.
For Owen Vadala, 12, one of his most memorable experiences as a Steward was the day spent crafting a full-scale model of the Crane Estate out of stones, pinecones and sticks gathered from the property. Then there was “this gigantic walk, ‘The Great Walk of Awesomeness’,” he says, adding the “awesome” moniker himself because it was an entire day of walking the mainland and island terrain. Other Stewards have built bluebird nesting boxes for the marsh, or stood knee-deep in Ipswich mud trying to understand what a clam represents in the world.
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