We’ll be away during July this summer (yippeeee!), but back in Brooklyn in August with a whole lotta nothin’ to do. Which means: Time to deal with summer camp.
When I heard — randomly, at a party in Manhattan — about Curious Jane Camp, I knew I wanted to explore it for M., and I did.
Curious Jane is an all-girls camp setting with a focus on science, design, and creativity. The goal is to empower young girls to become independent problem-solvers by experimenting in a fun environment. I thought M., a creative thinker with her own world view, would love it. And she spends so much time with her older brother and boy friends in Pre-K, I thought the girls-only setting would be an interesting twist for her.
So I signed her up! And then was dying to speak to Samantha Razook Murphy, the camp’s founder, about how Curious Jane came to be. Happily, she agreed!
Samantha, who holds a BA from Yale and a Masters in Industrial Design from Pratt, was inspired to create Curious Jane and Blue Tree, a camp for older girls, by her daughters. She wanted to give them — and all girls — a chance to learn, explore, and be creative in a high-energy, gender-affirming space.
I asked her a few questions about how it all came together….
I know you were inspired by your girls to create Curious Jane — but wow! You began in 2009 and now have Curious Jane, Jane Jr for younger girls, Blue Tree for older girls, and camps in multiple locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and beyond. How did you make *that* happen, lady?
Yes, our first programs opened in summer 2009. Prior to that I had spent a lot of time in all-girls residential programs and balanced that with a fair amount of design work and teaching (my background is in graphic and industrial design).
The honest answer is, in 2008, my husband and I had to make some major changes professionally, and this became the “opportunity” for me to quickly start something new! With my background in residential camps, Blue Tree was a natural extension and allowed me to choose and shape the classes that I wanted to offer. Basically I thought — as a somewhat shy, nerdy, creative teen girl — “I would have loved something like this!”
Curious Jane popped into my mind a few weeks later — just as you said, inspired by my girls and, specifically, their age. I figured if we were doing this for the older girls, why not bring it to a younger set? I was surprised by the positive impact the all-girl environment had on girls of a younger age. Curious Jane was incredibly well-received by families and, from the first to the second year, grew by over 500%. We were able to move out of my home and into a little office — and I was able to bring Jen (my right-hand woman) in with me to help develop and grow the programs.
I tend to be a “tortoise” who surrounds herself with “hares.” And while I wouldn’t have naturally grown as quickly — family, friends, co-workers, camp families — all told me, yes, you can take the programs here and here and here. And so we have!
We’ve added after-school programs, summer camp locations, and a social media presence (thanks to a close friend and her web group). It’s been a group effort and lots of people in many different circles have played a part.
What can Curious Jane offer girls that other camps would not? If you had to really distill it, what sets it apart?
The all-girls environment. The staff. The variety of project-based “themes” all under one roof.
The program and all-girls setting also draw a fantastic staff who are just as enthusiastic about this type of program as the campers are. It’s a creative, supportive, open setting. We consciously remove any emphasis on finding the “right” answer, and our goal becomes instead to try it out and see what happens.
And it’s nice that families can sign their daughters up for one camp/location that offers a lot of varied, fun activities. In three weeks, a camper could take Toy Design, Robotics, and our Magazine class. I look to my own girls, their friends, and my campers for hints on what to offer.
There are so many options out there for NYC parents. What have you learned they really want and are most impressed by in a camp experience?
I find that parents need something that fits their schedules; they like to work with programs that are flexible and take the time to get to know them and understand their logistical needs. They are also looking for something that their children want to go to each morning. If their daughter wakes up saying “great, I’m ready for Curious Jane” or comes home saying “I did the neatest thing today!” — that makes all the difference for a parent.
Parents don’t necessarily like a day packed with trips and they do like programs that are smaller in scale. If the staff is friendly and energetic, and their child is having a fun time with their projects and friends — that’s perfect.
I see you offer some cool-sounding weekend workshops for girls in 1st – 5th grade. What else is next or new for Curious Jane?
We have lots going on. Remember, I’m the tortoise! So I have my nose to the grindstone preparing for summer — there are lots of new projects and activities I want to bring into the camp. Our weekend workshops are small and a great way for families to “test-drive” us as well as for me to get a chance to be hands-on with the girls.
We have our after-school classes going on. I’m very excited about some recent collaborations; I’m contributing projects for the Kid DIY section of momfilter, and this summer, campers will have a chance to contribute work to Kiki Magazine. My voice will be backing out of our blog a bit, as girls contribute more work and ideas, and the blog will become truly “powered by girls.”
Cool — I’m so impressed, and excited for Magnolia to join you in August! Thanks, Samantha!
Want a chance to win a FREE WEEK of camp for your daughter? Of course you do! Enter to win now through March, 29 over at Curious Jane. And, while you’re there, see Samantha‘s list of “10 Tips to Help You Choose the Perfect Camp.”