Each week, Explorer campers pick two mini-courses in the focus areas of biology, music, art, theater, food, writing, nature, technology, science, and sports.
Detailed descriptions of the 30+ mini-courses are included below. Asterisks (*) denote intensive (double-block) mini-courses.
- Week 1 (June 12-16, 2017)
- Week 2 (June 19-23, 2017)
- Week 3 (June 26-30, 2017)
- Week 4 (July 3-7, 2017) (No camp 7/4)
- Week 5 (July 10-14, 2017)
- Week 6 (July 17-21, 2017)
Along with all the traditional perks of a summer day camp, Explorer campers pick two mini-courses per week upon enrollment.
Closer Look Medical Lab
Bio Jr. (+ dissection!) Weeks 1 & 4
There may be more than one million species in the Animal Kingdom, but nature uses the same fundamental machinery to create all of these vastly different creatures. In Bio Jr., we will think like biologists as we explore the taxonomy, function and evolution of natural organisms. Together, we will examine and dissect both grasshoppers and earthworms, learning about their internal and external anatomy and comparing their features to other common species. While grasshopper dissection is sure to give you a “leg up,” you may be surprised to learn why the lowly worm has in fact become a beloved test subject in the field of biotech and genetics research.
Cardio Jr. (+ dissection!) Weeks 2 & 5
Have you ever heard your heart sing? Felt it pound out of your chest? In Cardio Jr., we’ll get down to the heart of the matter as we learn about cardiology, heart health, and heart-related myths from cultures around the world. We will also gain first-hand experience dissecting a real sheep heart and kidney, as we discover how the chambers of the heart work together and how blood flow affects bodily systems.
Neuro Jr. (+ dissection!) Weeks 3 & 6
Where do memories come from? Is your brain really as sharp as a tack? Whether you consider yourself left-brained, right-brained, or hair-brained, Neuro Jr. will switch on that light bulb over your head! Join us as we learn all about the special part of our body that controls our senses, our emotions and our dreams. We’ll even dissect a real sheep brain and eye, as we discover how the optic nerve relays visual information from the eye to the brain. What are you waiting for? The mind truly is a terrible thing to waste…
High Note Music Studio
Rhythm & Voice Weeks 1 & 6
Drummers, poets, and dancers alike will find inspiration adventuring through the world of sound together this week in Rhythm & Voice. We’ll use our bodies and everyday objects as our instruments—crashing trash can lids, bouncing basketballs, and free-styling to the beat—as we explore all the ways that percussion, movement, and the written word can work together in harmony. Be sure to join us on Friday as the campers of Rhythm and Voice unleash their inspiration in an awesome group performance at the Explorer Showcase.
Campers interested in deepening their musical study can also register for private music lessons.
Rock Garden: Are You Experienced? Weeks 2 & 3
The Rock Garden is a performance-oriented music experience for student musicians that celebrates the joy of music-making in a rigorous yet non-competitive environment. Our summer music program, under the direction of Peter Delaplane, is a two-week intensive music experience during which students learn what it’s like to be a part of a band as they prepare for a showcase at a local venue. Frequently our showcases are held at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia and may also include a studio recording session. A special, music-themed field trip will be offered on Wednesdays of each week that Rock Garden is in session. Last year, Rock Garden musicians traveled to the Martin Guitar Factory in Nazareth, PA.
Middle schooler campers may also opt for dual enrollment in the Explorer C.I.T. Program and Explorer Camp’s Rock Garden Intensive. Campers interested in deepening their musical study can also register for private music lessons.
Beginner Ukulele Weeks 4 & 5
The ukulele is a four-stringed instrument made for the summertime! One strum and you’re sure to imagine yourself lazing under the palm trees of your very own tropical island oasis! Travel with us to Hawai'i as we explore the basics of strumming and chords while learning some of your favorite songs. Uke along with us, and you're sure to be ready for any campfire sing-a-long... No uke required! Beginner Ukulele is taught by GFS music teacher and Rock Garden creator Peter Delaplane.
Peter also offers private music lessons on a daily basis throughout Weeks 2-5 of Explorer Camp for campers interested in exploring ukulele or any other instrument with greater depth and personalized attention.
World Percussion Week 5
Want to learn to get into the groove? Make your drum speak? Add more cowbell? Join us in the Explorer Camp drum circle as we explore basic hand-drumming techniques and rhythms from around the globe! Cuban, African, and Brazilian styles and sounds will be explored in depth.
World Percussion is taught by GFS music teacher and Rock Garden creator Peter Delaplane. Peter also offers private music lessons on a daily basis throughout Weeks 2-5 of Explorer Camp for campers interested in exploring Ukulele or any other instrument with greater depth and personalized attention.
Freehand Artist Loft
Painting & Drawing Week 1
Calling all artists! It’s summertime; inspiration is in the air, and the Freehand Artist Loft is your one-stop creation shop! Watercolor, oil pastel, charcoal, and more! Whether following your own artistic vision or painting from observation en plein air, we’ll give you the tools you need to make your art pop off the page! In addition to making your next masterpiece, you and your fellow artists will curate your work for display at Friday’s Explorer Showcase and even learn how to share constructive feedback like a real art critic.
Sculpture in the Round
Week 2 FULL
Join us this week in the Freehand Artists’ Loft to give added dimension to your creativity! In addition to making art with clay and folded paper, we’ll also have fun working with found materials, devising environmental art that blends in with nature, and creating abstract structures out of multiples (think hundreds of tiny, neon-colored drink umbrellas!) At the end of the week, we will display our work at the Explorer Showcase, because your artwork belongs on a pedestal…especially if it’s a sculpture!
Self-Portraits Week 3
From the clothes we wear to the emojis we share, each day we use art and designs to express and describe ourselves to others. But what does identity look like? With famous portraiture old and new as our guide, we'll learn how artists pick the poses, details, colors, and symbols to represent their outer and inner selves. And with our own art, we will answer the questions… Who am I? and Who could I be?
Up-Cycled Fashion Week 4
Cut it, stitch it, knot it, dye it, print it, wear it! This week at Freehand Artists’ Loft is all about making art out of everyday objects that’s fabulous enough to wear. Using repurposed materials—plastic bags, nylon string, newspaper, and more—we’ll work in teams to make an up-cycled outfit for the Explorer Showcase runway as we play with patterns, experiment with colors, and learn how to sew, weave, bunch, and drape our wearables just the way we like them!
Mixed Media Week 5
Are you most happy when you have every art supply you can imagine and more, right at your fingertips? Do you love to follow your inspiration and see where it leads you? Taking our lead from a few famous artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Henri Matisse, who made art in unexpected ways, we’ll spend this week embracing our own experimental eye as we try out new artistic techniques, including oil resist, transfer, collage, and more.
Mural Art Week 6
Do you agree that the Earth without “art” is just, “Eh”? Have you ever wondered what steps you can take to get your art out there for others to enjoy? Team up with other art appreciators as we explore our school and neighborhood community through the murals and sculptures we find there. Together, we’ll chat with a local artist, brainstorm a message we’d like to share with our community, and paint our personal touch to an ongoing mural project at Germantown Friends School!
Live Action Roleplay (LARping) Weeks 2 & 5
Join us for a week of Live Action Role Playing (LARPing), a magical adventure that combines theatre, role playing, teamwork, and athletic activity. Set in the outdoors, our week of LARPing will encourage campers to create basic characters and grow them through a series of theatre-based games that will explore what it feels like to be Luke Skywalker defending the galaxy with his lightsaber or a knight using humorous banter and a chivalrous nature to help her team achieve a “win-win” ending that will leave all campers proud of their characters and themselves.
Theater Games Weeks 1, 3 & 6
If laughter is the best medicine, playing theater games is sure to keep the doctor away! Join us this week as we get on our feet, get loosened up, and get silly with all kinds of fun theater play activities! We’ll explore gesture and body language, play with mood, and stretch our imaginations in unimaginable ways! The only rule is that there are no scripts—we’ll make up everything as we go along!
Play with Your Food Weeks 1 & 4
Chefs, open your baskets! Inside you will find a nectarine, a zucchini, a bunch of carrots and a package of cooked linguini. You have twenty minutes to combine your foods to create a creature from outer space! Any way you slice it, Play with Your Food wants you to arrange your edibles and let your imagination be your guide. In addition to crafting works of art from our favorite snacks, we'll also dig into the science of nutrition and learn why “you are what you eat!”.... (No, not a creature from outer space, unless… :) )
Just Desserts! Weeks 2 & 5 Week 2 is FULL
Are you a frosting-first cupcake eater? Do you regularly come down with a case of "chocolate fever"? If so, bring your sweet tooth to Just Desserts! and join us as we whip up and taste-test an assortment of sweet treats, including pastries, sorbets, and enough chocolate bon-bons to fill up your Valentine’s heart. All this and more… with whipped cream and a cherry on top!
International Eats Weeks 3 & 6
Let your taste buds be your guide as you explore what’s cooking around the world. Our culinary quest will lead us through Central America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Japan, where we will learn about regional delicacies, practice culinary customs, and craft delicious dishes: stuffing our own homemade pasta, discovering the secret mix of herbs and spices to make the perfect Indian curry, and more. When all is done and devoured, you truly will be a “seasoned” traveler. Bon appetit!
Inner Voice Writers Nest
D.I.Y. Audiobook Weeks 1 & 4
Thwack! Thwack! Hamburger patties are falling from the sky! Did you know that squishy moment from the movie "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" was made by slapping a wet rag on wood? This week in the Writers Nest, we will explore the art of communicating to amplify the moments that make our favorite stories come to life in our mind’s eye. Working individually and in teams, we will read our favorite stories aloud to sharpen our fluency and pacing, develop the perfect voices for our cast of characters, and even make our own homemade sound effects. On the final day of camp, we'll narrate our stories on microphone—sound effects and all—to create our own audio recordings. Camper audiobooks will be uploaded to the Summertime at GFS website for all to enjoy.
Stranger than Fiction Weeks 2 & 5
In search of the perfect summer reading? Why not write it yourself? The setting is Explorer Camp. And we’ve got a toolbox of writing tricks to have you penning your own Diary of a… in no time! We’ll start by brainstorming the traits and back stories of our own main characters. Next, working our way through dialogue, dilemmas, and sensory adventures, we’ll practice using vivid language, simple narrative structure, and even cartooning to make our writing come right off of the page. Hey, it could happen…
Day Camp Gazette Weeks 3 & 6
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Our team of budding Explorer journalists are crafting their very own camp newspaper to tell the stories that make the Summertime at GFS come to life. Pen an opinion piece about Kiddie Pool Kickball, cartoon a comic strip about your lunch escaping the cafeteria, or interview a camper about what they learned while dissecting a heart in the Medical Lab… And don’t forget that eye-catching headline...or that deadline! We journalists will write, edit, and publish our paper just in time to hand out at for the Friday’s Explorer Showcase.
Hidden Path Nature Lodge
Pond & Stream Week 4
Ah, the wild, wonderful Wissahickon! Join us in your best pair of water shoes or grimy sneakers as we explore the wilderness in our backyard. From the weedy shallows and murky sediment to the open water, we’ll peek under rocks, capture and catalogue aquatic specimens, and learn how to identify native plants with a dichotomous key. On Wednesday, interested campers can learn even more about our local ecosystem and how to keep it healthy by opting into a day-long nature excursion to the Wissahickon Creek.
Dig Site: Lost Culture Weeks 2 & 5
This week at the Nature Lodge, we'll become archaeologists as we unearth ancient “artifacts” and build the story of a past people lost to the sands of time. Groups will get a chance both to create their own civilization and to recreate the story of another civilization after excavating fragments of its history from the Explorer Camp dig site.
Survival Skills Week 6
What would you do if you found yourself shipwrecked on a remote island? This week at the Nature Lodge, our imaginations will take us there, where we’ll learn the basics of pitching a tent, building a shelter, identifying and snacking on edible plants, practicing how to tell time and predict the weather using natural indicators, and more.
Mastermind Tech Cluster
Coding Intensive* Week 1
Coding Week 4
Crack the code to designing and creating your own interactive digital projects of all kinds. We’ll learn computer-programming fundamentals, practice key-coding concepts, build interactive stories, and solve problems using Pencil Code. An open-source program developed by Google, Pencil Code uses a simple graphic interface to help students become familiar with the basics of computational thinking. Because Pencil Code is web-based, campers will be able to access their work from any computer that is connected to the Internet.
*The Week 1 Coding Intensive is a double mini-course taught by GFS Upper School Computer Science and Robotics teacher Matt Zipin. The Week 4 Coding mini-course, taught by Explorer staff, is not an intensive. Week 4 campers will have the opportunity to enroll in a second mini-course.
Computer Science Intensive* Week 2
Computer Science Week 5
Spark your love for technology and sharpen your facility with the skills of tomorrow as you edit pictures, make music, and design a T-shirt with computer science. Campers will enjoy interfacing with an assortment of software, including Image Tricks, GarageBand, and iPhoto to create and communicate. Additionally, campers enrolled in the double-block Computer Science Intensive (Week 1 only) will also learn how to use coding to build their own computer programs.
*The Week 2 Computer Science Intensive is a double mini-course taught by GFS Lower School Computer Science teacher Ann Perrone. The Week 5 Computer Science mini-course, taught by Explorer staff, is not an intensive. Week 5 campers will have the opportunity to enroll in a second mini-course.
LEGO® Robotics Intensive* Week 3
LEGO® Robotics Week 6
What does it take to make a robot play soccer? Can you design a robot that actually can bowl? What if you wanted to create a robot that could avoid obstacles, sing songs, flash lights and dance? All of these feats are feasible in LEGO Robotics. Together, campers will assemble state-of-the-art Lego EV3 robots, modify their capabilities and write instructions to get the robots to follow the programs they code. Each day will focus on different aspects of the robot: movement, touch sensor, sonar sensor, color sensor, extra motors and sounds.
*The Week 3 LEGO Robotics Intensive is a double mini-course taught by GFS Upper School Computer Science and Robotics teacher Matt Zipin. The Week 6 LEGO Robotics mini-course, taught by Explorer staff, is not an intensive. Week 6 campers will have the opportunity to enroll in a second mini-course.
Inventors & Inventions Weeks 1 & 4
What do the revolving door, soda pop, and the Slinky have in common? They were all invented in Philadelphia, and life has never been the same since! This week in the STEAM Lab, we’ll take a look at an array of modern inventions and explore the thinking behind them. Then, we'll put on our inventor caps and use the engineering design process to draft and prototype our own amazing contraptions to perform a common task in a new and interesting way. Who knows, Shark Tank may be around the corner!
Chemistry of "COOL!" Weeks 2 & 5
Bubbles, fizz, and slime, oh my! Join us in the STEAM Lab as we get messy using scientific inquiry to explore the properties of the world around us! Starting with the basic building blocks of matter, we’ll follow the steps of the scientific method to make predictions as we safely design experiments to achieve chemical reactions that are all kinds of "COOL!"
Playground Physics Weeks 3 & 6
What better way to learn about science than through play? Join us as we swing, slide, see-saw, and merry-go-round through the four forces of physics. In addition to learning through play, we’ll also experiment with marbles, salad spinners, waterfalls, and even movement and dance to simulate forces, and we’ll work in teams to design an extreme play structure that is sure to bring out the kid in Isaac Newton!