Summer Camp at The Trustees

Julie Bernson, Associate Director of Learning, discusses The Trustees camper experience.


Even in the dead of winter, the long, warm days of summer are closer than they appear. Registration for Trustees summer camp is officially open! Get the new year started by signing your camper up for a week or more of outdoor exploration and education at one of our nine summer camp locations.  

Thanks to generous support from you and your fellow Founders Circle members, The Trustees welcomed thousands of campers last summer participating in all kinds of activities, from pickling farm-fresh vegetables to constructing outdoor art installations. 

This summer is sure to be even better thanks to the work of our incredible camp directors and staff. Read on for a Q&A with Trustees Associate Director of Learning, Julie Bernson, as she talks about the summer ahead and what makes Trustees summer camps special.

Julie Bernson, Associate Director of Learning for The Trustees, led learning and engagement at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum for seven years before its integration with The Trustees.

What kind of experience is offered at Trustees summer camps?

The Trustees offers unique summer day camp experiences for children ages 4 to 17 at nine of our properties, all located in Eastern Massachusetts. Camps run throughout the summer on a weekly basis, with most starting on Monday, June 26 and some extending all the way to Friday, August 25.  

While the total number of children at each camp differs, each camp group is generally comprised of 10 to 15 children. We strive to provide very personal camp experiences compared to other larger summer camps. Our staff gets to know our campers, their families, and their fellow staff really well because we’re able to provide a more intimate experience. 

With four farm camps, two coastal camps, a nature camp, and one at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, each site offers a unique set of activities and adventures. 

For information on the who, what, where, when, and why at each camp, you can visit their individual webpages here:

Appleton Farms, Ipswich
Crane Estate, Ipswich
Chestnut Hill Farm, Southborough
deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln 
Powisset Farm, Dover
Rocky Woods, Medfield  
World’s End, Hingham
Weir River Farm, Hingham
The FARM Institute, Edgartown

What makes Trustees summer camps unique?

The key feature that binds all our camps together is that they are rooted in our special places. It’s our goal to educate campers about our places, and the curriculum that the camp staff develop at each property reflects that.  

At the farms, they’re actually performing farm chores and getting to know the animals, making sure they’re fed and healthy. Instead of learning through abstract lessons, campers actually do things themselves.  

At World’s End and Crane Estate, where the campers are by the water, they’re learning about the coast, the impact humans have on the environment, and how to become stewards of these critical landscapes. 

At deCordova, instead of kids making small, discrete art objects to take home, they are collaborating on huge outdoor artworks that get shown at the end of the week. It gives them a sense of being art creators, expressing themselves in a public venue, and learning about the collaborative nature of large-scale art.  

What we offer isn’t your typical camp with traditional recreational activities like archery and swimming, and it’s not like math or music camps either. Here, campers engage in fun experiences while learning together about the natural environment around them. It’s educational without being academic, and parents really value that.

What is something new or exciting happening at camps this summer?

This summer, I’m really excited about our teen programming. The camps that have programs for ages 4 to 10 tend to fill up quickly. The harder audience to reach is teenagers. For years our camp directors have been trying to figure out, “how do we create programs to bring in those teens that love our properties but are aging out of traditional day camp?”  

At deCordova, we have a summer studio for teens that follows from the weekly Hive summer camp. SummerQuest at Crane has a stewardship program for teens, allowing them to take on week-long projects and access parts of the property that younger campers don’t, like boating to Choate Island.  

Another way we’re reaching teens is by expanding our counselor-in-training (CIT) program. The CIT program provides a personal, social, and professional development opportunity for ages 15 to 17. In addition to the popular CIT program at The FARM Institute, we added a CIT program at Appleton Farms last summer, and this summer we are adding CIT programs at Chestnut Hill Farm and Crane Estate. The program brings along those who love the properties and gives them new opportunities and responsibilities, in the hopes that they will one day become camp counselors.  

The other thing we’re doing to reach more kids is getting the word out about our camp scholarships for families who would like to attend our camps but can’t afford it. We’re working with partners to fund these scholarships, as well as organizations like the Wonderfund, which serves children and their families engaged with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). It’s been great to reach these audiences who we otherwise might not be able to reach.

Campers at The Trustees explore and collaborate as they learn the importance of nature in their lives. 

– Julie Bernson, Associate Director of Learning

The number of summer camp sites offered by The Trustees has tripled in the past seven years. What do you think has caused this growth and continued success?

It’s been a priority at The Trustees to get more young people to connect with our places in a deeper way, and summer camps really allow us to do that. Our camp directors, counselors, and property staff are incredible. They’re so thoughtful and committed to making every camper’s experience and every family’s experience meaningful and lasting. I think a lot of our success is directly due to their collaborative efforts.   

In the last few years, we’ve seen that getting kids outside has been a priority for many families. Giving kids an outdoor outlet in the summer, a chance to meet other kids and do something that’s educational without feeling like school, is something parents really value. They want to know their kids will have fun, learn, and be taken care of.  Campers at The Trustees explore and collaborate as they learn the importance of nature in their lives. 

Campers playing in the woods outdoors at Appleton Farms Summer Farm Camp