With the weather warming up and kids eager to get back to some activities that were either vastly altered due to the pandemic or just completely cancelled, Jamaica Plain offers a wide variety of programming for kids to participate in.
The Gazette spoke with Mary Ellen Ehrenreich of Kids…Together in the Arts, a summer camp focused on various forms of art and self expression, as well as Phil Hall from JP Children’s Soccer, to learn more about these programs and what they can offer for local youth.
KIDS…TOGETHER IN THE ARTS
Ehrenreich said that this is the 21st year of Kids…Together in the Arts, which runs five different weeks of camp from the last week of June through July.
“Kids have classes in each of the four disciplines:” she said, which are music, dance, drama, and visual arts. Each week has a theme that is not announced until kids arrive at camp on Monday. At the end of each week is a performance, but last year it was virtual due to the pandemic.
“We are going to be a live performance this year,” she said, if all continues to stay relatively the same.
“We will definitely keep referring to the CDC recommendations,” she added.
The camp is held at Spontaneous Celebrations at 45 Danforth St., but many of the activities are held outside, especially last year for activities like music when kids are singing. She said that Spontaneous Celebrations installed a new HEPA air filtration system last summer as well.
“Last summer, all kids wore masks,” she said, which will be encouraged this year as well but not enforced. Children will, however, be required to be vaccinated to participate in camp, as was the rule last year.
Last year’s program was also smaller than usual, with a cap of 10 kids in a class at a time, and 45 total throughout the five weeks.
Ehrenreich said that while there were some perks to the virtual performance, including being able to take breaks and take their time shooting it, she heard from kids and families that they really missed the live performance.
Counselors participate in training with a professional company on working in groups and problem solving, as well as “positive reinforcement training.” Ehrenreich said that counselors are taught how to handle bullying as well.
Aside from the arts classes, kids are given lunch and snack breaks, as well as a free period for outdoor play.
“I’m excited to just have the kids back, hopefully without the masks this summer,” she said, and get “back to some normalcy with the program.” However, she said that kids did really well with the strict restrictions last year. She hopes the program this year can be “a little more light and less heavy,” and kids can enjoy the camp to its fullest.
For more information about Kids…Together in the Arts and to register for camp, visit kidstogetherinthearts.com.
JP CHILDREN’S SOCCER
Phil Hall, president of JP Children’s Soccer, said he has been involved with the program for about 14 years, though it has existed since 1978. The program serves young children ages three and a half to six and a half, but the real focus is not on the game of soccer.
The goal is “to get kids running around,” Hall said. “Soccer is the tool we use…it’s about getting the kids active and outdoors and bringing the community together.”
He described the program as “grassroots,” and all coaches are volunteers. Parents take turns bringing snacks for the kids to eat at the end of each 45 minute session. The program takes place at Pinebank Field by Jamaica Pond.
Hall said that there is a “group of about five or six people who run the operation,” which includes assigning teams, training coaches, and organizing equipment, as well as ordering T-shirts.
The program has two sessions: one in the spring, and one in the fall, and the cost is $25 for each eight-week session. Families are asked to request a time—Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday are offered—and they will be placed on teams accordingly.
Though he describes the team leaders as “coaches,” he said that they are “trying to get away from the term ‘coach’,” as it implies that knowledge of the game of soccer is needed, which is not true.
“It’s been a challenge for us to get coaches to step forward and work even though I think we’re hitting a record number of kids.”
He said that this spring, 550 kids have registered to participate in the program. The program took a hit during the pandemic, completely shutting down in the spring and fall of 2020, though it did return last spring “in a limited manner.” The teams were smaller and kids were asked to wear masks.
“This year, we’re kind of going forward in a normal way,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see that many people participating.”
During the program, kids play games like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light.
“We don’t teach rules,” Hall said, and “discourage” things like cleats and shin guards.
There are, however, three different levels depending on age, and the oldest group (five and a half to six and a half) might play some more actual soccer-type activities and play scrimmages, but there are no actual games scheduled for any age group.
Hall said that the “biggest challenge” is getting people to participate as coaches. “Truthfully, all it takes is someone to be a caregiver,” he said, and able to play games with the kids.
“We’re looking for people to jump in and lend a hand,” he said.
Though registration for the spring session is now closed, Hall said registration for the fall session should open up sometime in May.
For more information and to get involved, visit https://teamsideline.com/sites/jpcsregister/home, as well as the JP Children’s Soccer Facebook page and on Instagram @jpchildrenssoccer.