The Little Captains Summer Camp, held by Admiral Farragut Academy, finished its fifth year with incredible success and was even featured on the front page in the Tampa Bay Times for its highly popular visit by members of the United States Special Operations Command. After starting with just 21 campers in its inaugural session in 2011, the camp topped 100 participants in just one week this summer during the American Ninja Warrior session.
Founded by kindergarten teacher Marilyn Reynolds and now co-directed with 2nd and 3rd grade language arts teacher Cate Taylor, the camp has grown not only in size but in reputation. With a different theme each week — this year, it was Water, Pirates, Sports, and American Ninja Warrior, Little Captains has become one of Farragut’s signature day camps during the summer. The camp operates on a rotating schedule which includes daily morning assembly, swimming or swim play, crafts, sports, indoor centers, free play, waterfront activities, science, mathematics, language arts, and team building social skills.
“Word-of-mouth throughout the community has brought families to our campus who normally wouldn’t have done so before,” Mrs. Reynolds said. “In the first year, all of our campers were our Farragut students. This year, we have had a nice mixture of kids from Farragut and from the surrounding area. It’s great to see the bonds formed between campers from various schools, between counselors and campers, between counselors from different schools, between directors, the staff and campers’ families. Many campers ultimately come back year after year due to these bonds.”
Even better, many campers over the years ultimately enjoyed the environment and staff at Farragut so much that they enrolling in the school. “The kids love the camp so much, every year we have families register their children for the academic school year at Farragut,” Mrs. Reynolds said.
The camp has also helped strengthen the growth and development factor for Upper School students through the Counselors In Training (CIT) regime. In addition, Lower School students become more mature by working as Junior Counselors (JC).
“Specifically, a CIT must be in 8th through 10th grade to train to become a possible paid counselor when they reach 11th grade,” Mrs. Reynolds said. “This year, though, we only hired 12th grade and college students as counselors. Many are former Farragut students who come back from college to work at camp. They are responsible for a group of 10-15 campers (depending on age) so we interview each applicant carefully. CITs receive community service hours for their work at our camp. Junior Counselors are in grades 6-7. They pay a small fee to cover expenses such as lunch and t-shirts. JCs are helpers to the CITs and Counselors. They receive a long break in the afternoon to have fun together at the pool or waterfront without the campers.”
Most importantly, though, the camp has done what camps are supposed to do — build confidence and self-esteem through fun and challenging activities while creating lifelong memories.
“This year, especially during the Sports and American Ninja Warrior weeks, we saw so many campers who initially said they couldn’t attempt many of the activities but by the end of the week, were participating and putting effort into everything they attempted, win or lose,” Mrs. Reynolds said.
Parents love Little Captains because their child is happy and they can see it for themselves in the daily communication between the directors and parents.
“Communication makes our camp stand out to parents,” explained Marilyn.
“I am big into communication, so every parent also had my personal cell phone number to call/text with any concerns or questions. Parents really appreciate that. We also made sure parents received multiple emails throughout the week letting them know all the activities we had done and also the link to SmugMug (our picture sharing website) to see daily uploaded pictures of their child. Parents often said to me ‘I felt like I was there.’”
Marilyn continued, “Parents felt confident their child was in good hands during Little Captains. During drop off and pick up, parents would tell me how impressed they were with the JC, CIT, and Counselors manners and knowledge of each camper. I made it important that they knew each child’s name. We are proud to keep a private school feel during our public camp.”
- Fun themes: Sports, Pirates, Water, American Ninja Warrior, Animals, Tough Mudder, Creative Arts, Drama, Military Appreciation
- Multitude of daily activities: water slide, STEM activities, cooking, art, swimming, boating, water balloon play, slip and slide, indoor and outdoor obstacle courses, excursions to island in Boca Ciega Bay, visit by members of the United States Special Operations Command, police canine visit, daily assemblies; for older campers: paddle boarding, kayaking, tubing, soccer games, basketball games, nature walks
- Educational opportunities: science/STEM activities like making slime, making pirate treasure maps, invisible ink, messy science experiments (Steve Spangler), constructing marble runs, and tin boats. Learn new sports, challenging physical limits, teamwork. Explore marine life on the island. Pirate history, finding shell treasure. Brain teasers and minute to win it games.
- Waterfront opportunities: boating, dolphin watching, fishing, searching for crabs and sea life; for older campers: sailing, kayaking, knee boarding, tubing, paddle boarding, casting.
- Special activities and themes in the last few years have included: Two visits from SOCOM, Birds of Prey and Small Animals from Boyd Hill Nature Park, Police Canine Dogs, Pet Parade (campers brought their own pets), Fishing Day, Award Ceremonies (after Olympics, Tough Mudder and this year American Ninja Warrior weeks).