If Camp Half-Blood sounds like a Harry Potter book title, you’re right. The unique summer experience is a literary role-playing camp which takes its inspiration from the book series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The weeklong session trains demigods—half mortal, half god—to be the next heroes of Olympus.
“I always like to tell the story of how the books become important to the kids,” says Crystal Bobb-Semple, a former bookstore owner who started the camp in Brooklyn in 2010. “What’s also important is that they asked to take this off the page and into a real-life experience. And it’s been wonderful taking these stories, with kids, and turning them into these immersive, on-the-ground, completely outdoor summer camp experiences.”
NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES
Camp Half-Blood’s greatest lesson—other than facility with Greek mythology—is its ethos that all children can be the star of the show. “Regardless of your special power—the thing the gods have endowed you with—you can become a hero in our space,” Bobb-Semple says. “We make sure that it’s not always the fastest kid that gets celebrated. Or the smartest kid who gets celebrated. This is all about democratizing not just the reading experience, but the camp experience. So, everyone at camp matters.” And while the camp may seem all about fantasy and fun—it’s learning at its utmost.
Each’s week’s Quest is a hidden lesson. “Literacy is our secret mission,” Bobb-Semple says. “Kids at camp are not required to read anything. Many of them do, obviously. But our value is that we tell these stories. We tell them through our play. We tell them verbally in the form of counselors doing things like story time or leading Mythomagic games with kids.”
FAMILIAR FACES, DONE SAFELY
Camp Half-Blood is held outdoors on Mayapple Hill at South Mountain Reservation. Last year, there were no positive coronavirus cases at the camp, and when rainy weather prevented gathering, the camp went virtual. This year, Bobb-Semple hopes to use indoor spaces at local schools, if that option is safely available.
Either way, this year’s camp will feature familiar faces as some 80 percent of counselors return year after year to serve as Greek guideposts to glory. “Our mission is to show kids that stories matter, their stories matter,” Bobb-Semple says. “And our goal is to create spaces where their imagination can take the story to the next level.”
Mayapple Hill, South Mountain Reservation, Maplewood