Young chefs show off the results of their culinary class at SummerQuest camp.

For a busy mom, the lament can be exasperating. Summer has barely begun and the kids are already saying, I’m bored. There’s nothing to do! And mom’s thinking that finding something fun to do during summer vacation shouldn’t have to be a chore. After all, it’s not rocket science. Or is it?

At SummerQuest day camp in Clayton, rocketry is just one of the programs campers flock to year after year. “We have lots of different skill levels,” says camp director Nathan Peck. “We have kids who’ve never built a rocket, who can launch their first one from a basic kit. Then we have kids who have been doing rocketry for several years. They might use an advanced kit, or design and build their own from scratch.” Even the launch pad is provided, he adds. “After choosing a nose cone and a parachute, the kids launch their scratch-built rockets from the big field at Shaw Park.”

SummerQuest campers also can choose from a wide selection of age-specific camping activities, including sports, music, photography, art, cooking and theater. Campers are divided into three groups by grade level, and Peck says particular care is taken with the youngest kids, who will be entering kindergarten in the fall. “The kindergarteners are in a smaller group, assisted by three adults who are with them all day. They even eat lunch together, family style.” To help with the transition to school, Peck says the youngest campers are grouped by what school they’ll be attending. “All you need is one or two good friends to get you through the terror of that first day of kindergarten!”

SummerQuest is a jointly run program operated by the Center of Clayton, the city of Clayton and the Clayton School District. “We have the use of the high school building, the Center and Shaw Park,” Peck notes. “So we have three swimming pools, and an absolutely fabulous swim program!” Peck’s own children learned to swim at SummerQuest, and he’s enthusiastic about the results. “If someone comes for the whole six weeks, they are water-safe and swimming by the end of camp.”

The second age group includes kids entering grades four to six, and these campers can design a schedule based on their interests. “If you’re mostly into sports, you can do sports all day. Or you can mix it up with art, cooking or computer stuf,” Peck explains. For the sports-minded, SummerQuest offers professional coaching in fencing, soccer and football, to name just a few of the favorites. And students who choose cooking will have the chance to practice their skills in the new culinary arts lab at Clayton High School.

“The cooking classes are very popular!” Peck says. “The kids learn to make cakes and pastries, and decorate them, too.” Describing some of the cake designs as ‘jaw-dropping,’ Peck says he can’t believe they were created by fourth-graders.

SummerQuest’s program for students entering seventh and eighth grade focuses on two academic areas: science and technology, and the fine and performing arts. The former includes classes with titles sure to tempt a fledgling scientist: Claymation, Mini Med School and Chemistry Blow Out; while creative souls can express themselves through dance and theater classes, canvas art, photography and Emeril-worthy cooking classes like Iron Chef and Confections et la Patisserie.

The opportunities for personal enrichment and skill-building are plentiful, but Peck says there’s one thing that keeps campers returning to SummerQuest every year. “We have a lot of serious fun!”