Question: What would inspire a former Navy submarine officer to detour his plans for medical school, opting instead to pursue a career as a teacher? Answer: Camp Galileo, the Bay Area’s fastest-growing summer day camp with 15 sites throughout the East Bay, Peninsula, South Bay and San Francisco. Operated by Oakland-based Galileo Educational Services, Camp Galileo combines a highly selective staff screening process with a creative educational approach and quality leadership training to create a culture that not only keeps campers flocking back, but also serves as a launch-pad for local educators. In addition to furthering the careers of educators, Camp Galileo is making summer camp available to kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds by offering 1,000 scholarships valued at $350,000 in 2007.
When he took a summer job as the lead science instructor at Camp Galileo’s Palo Alto site, John Glore never dreamed it would change the course of his life. Having just completed his service as a nuclear engineering officer on a Navy submarine, Glore planned to attend medical school. What Glore didn’t plan on was his summer job being a defining moment for him. “At Camp Galileo, I saw that education isn’t about a screaming roomful of kids. There’s no right or wrong and no grades—just room to grow and be creative. Kids learn the same things as in school but it’s fun. It changed my idea about what education could be like.” As a result of his experience at Camp Galileo, Glore changed his career goals. Today, with three years of camp instruction and a Masters Degree under his belt, Glore is working towards his teaching credential full-time at San Jose State and will return to Camp Galileo this summer.
Glore’s story is not uncommon among Camp Galileo staffers—in fact, it mirrors the company’s mission. According to Galileo Educational Services’ Founder & CEO Glen Tripp, “At Camp Galileo, our dream is not only to create a camp culture where kids can flourish, but also our staff. In doing so we aim to strengthen the quality of educational institutions by inspiring future teachers, strengthening the skills of existing ones, and encouraging the aspirations of educational leaders.”
In sync with Tripp’s vision, staff members have direct experience in youth enrichment, and exhibit the key qualities that, by Camp Galileo’s definition, constitute the quintessential camp counselor: enthusiasm, responsibility, subject/child expertise and the ability to inspire. These special qualities, combined with their selectivity in hiring staff, offer insights as to why Camp Galileo serves as such a breeding ground for current and future educators. Only 12% of applicants make it through their four-round screening process, resulting in an environment of mutual growth where educators can exchange ideas with the best and brightest in their field.
Once on board, the company's over 400 employees offer campers an innovative “learning-made-fun” summer curriculum emphasizing art, science and the outdoors developed with their partners at the de Young Museum (art), The Tech Museum of Innovation (science) and Klutz® (outdoors). One element of Camp Galileo is the Design Challenge educational approach, where campers are divided into small groups to create hands-on solutions to science and engineering challenges. The challenges often have real-life applications, such as building a model bridge to replace those damaged in a supposed 8.4 magnitude earthquake. Campers aren’t the only ones encouraged to think outside-the-box; staff are encouraged to do so as well with their curriculum.
When Lily deSaussure joined Camp Galileo’s staff as a Lead Art Instructor at their San Francisco site in 2005, she arrived with a BFA and a budding interest in teaching. “For me, Camp Galileo served as a launch-pad for my career as an art educator,” says deSaussure, who—thanks to the classroom skills she learned at Camp Galileo—works during the school year as a teaching assistant at American University while she pursues her MFA there. “They helped me create my own form of educating from the ground up by giving me room to breathe and the freedom to mold my own curriculum.” She adds, “Educators end up using Camp Galileo as a sort of lab because they can experiment with teaching techniques to develop new and improved methods of educating. It’s a great place to learn to be a better educator.”
During the school year, Jason Singleton is the 7th & 8th grade head science teacher at the Town School for Boys in San Francisco. Come summer, Singleton is the camp director at Camp Galileo’s El Cerrito site. Already an educator when he joined Camp Galileo, Singleton credits them with enhancing his teaching ability at his other job. “Camp Galileo taught me the value of getting the kids involved hands-on so that they can create the moment; in doing so, camp-like fun enters the classroom and the fear is removed from science.” Singleton takes his classroom cues from Camp Galileo’s aforementioned Design Challenge educational approach.
Camp Galileo staff participate in the L.E.A.D. Program (Leadership through Education, Action and Development), pre-camp leadership training and continuous on-site training which prepares them for leadership in the classroom and beyond. Program elements include a two-day orientation and training seminar; experience teaching high-quality curriculum; individual and group goal setting and performance evaluations; ongoing observation and feedback aimed at improving skills; and weekly staff meetings focused on collaboration and improvement. Staff members also receive access to Camp Galileo’s alumni network, advisory board members and partners for educational employment and networking opportunities, and three units of continuing education credits are available for classroom teachers. Ultimately, L.E.A.D. equips staff with skills to take their education careers to the next level. The training has paid-off for Singleton; recently he was offered a fellowship to train to become a Bay Area principal. While he plans to hold off for now, he says this opportunity came his way thanks to the leadership skills he developed working at Camp Galileo.
For her part, Stephanie Burns—a Camp Galileo camp director since 2003 at their Woodside and San Francisco sites—worked as a marine science environmental educator for 7 years before joining Camp Galileo. Says Burns, “If anyone would have told me in college I’d be running around someday with a rubber chicken in my hands, I would have said they were nuts. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.” Camp mascot aside, Burns says Camp Galileo has indulged her love of working with children, while also enabling her to take on added responsibility and develop as a manager. “There’s a strong culture of feedback and growth,” says Burns, who was recently promoted to recruiting outreach manager for the company.
San Francisco State University student Peter Lim has worked as a team leader at Camp Galileo’s Belmont and Lafayette sites. “Before working at Camp Galileo, I had a moderate curiosity in the education field, but my extremely positive experience definitely set me on the path to becoming a passionate educator.” Lim believes Camp Galileo’s supportive and creative work environment helped him solidify his skills and raise his overall comfort level working with children; he has gone on to work in a variety of educational settings as a language tutor and teacher. As Sunnyvale site Camp Director Greg Zillmer sums it up, “When you get Camp Galileo staff together in a room, the talent is awe-inspiring. You learn so much from the people you work with because they are the stars of the classroom. You feel privileged to be a part of something great.”
This summer even more campers will join Camp Galileo staff in being a part of something great. Founded in 2002 with 250 enrollments, the program expects 11,000 this summer. Camp Galileo always reserves spots for scholarship campers, and this summer they plan to assist 1,000 kids at a total value of $350,000. The Galileo Scholarship Program provides full and partial awards to low- and middle-income families who need financial assistance. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis with upcoming deadlines on 3/15/07 and 4/15/07.
Monique Walton is a single mother with a limited income whose 9-year-old son Deriyan received a full scholarship to Camp Galileo’s San Jose/Evergreen site the last two summers. Walton fondly calls Camp Galileo “One big learning summer party,” adding, “It builds the foundation of learning for kids that they eventually take home and to school.” Camper Isabella Fleury is a 6-year-old who attended Camp Galileo’s Lafayette site on a partial scholarship last summer after her parents declared bankruptcy. “We didn’t want our daughter to suffer because of our mistakes,” said Isabella’s mother Laura. “The whole experience has been so positive; it’s opened up possibilities and broadened Isabella’s perspective. She talks about camp all year long and the amazing staff is a big reason for that.”
Camp Galileo’s summer programs are offered for full-day schedules in one-week intervals, with kids being divided by age-groups (Kindergarten; Grades 1-2; and Grades 3-5). Kindergartners have the option of part-day schedules and curriculum is tested in advance by kids. Sessions start the week of 6/18 and last through 8/6. Camp locations include: Alamo/Danville; Belmont; El Cerrito/North Berkeley; Fremont; Hillsborough; Lafayette; Los Altos; Menlo Park; Oakland/Rockridge; Palo Alto; San Francisco; San Jose/Almaden Valley; San Jose/Evergreen; Saratoga; and Sunnyvale. To enroll, apply for a staff position or scholarship or for more information, please call 1-800-854-3684 or visit www.galileoed.com.