Frequently Asked Questions

Simmons Camp

Where is Summer Ink located?

Our camp programs are based at Simmons College in Boston – easily accessible by public transportation. Summer Ink offices are located in Needham.

Is Summer Ink a camp for strong writers or for students who struggle with writing?

Both! Summer Ink’s brand of writing instruction, the WEX method, covers core skills that are essential at every level. Because the writing process can feel overwhelming, struggling writers will benefit from the WEX approach of tackling one specific skill at a time. These skills are concrete rather than abstract. For example, a camper might be directed to try adding dialogue to a scene, rather than to simply “make it more lively.” Revision assignments are targeted to a particular task in a particular sentence or sentences. This level of breakdown can help demystify the writing process for struggling writers.

 

Stronger writers will appreciate this kind of specific direction, too. While they may have an intuitive grasp of writing, they may not realize which specific aspects create vivid images in a reader’s mind. Summer Ink gives them a chance to experiment by tweaking and fine-tuning these individual skills. The camp also poses the additional challenge of writing within a set period of time. All campers, regardless of skill level, can benefit from the camp’s frequent, positive feedback and the individual attention created by a 4:1 camper-to-counselor ratio.

My child dislikes writing. Will Summer Ink change his attitude?

Some kids, finding themselves enrolled in a writing camp, may not be…happy campers. While we can’t guarantee a change of attitude, we can say this much: If he’s ever going to open his mind to writing, this camp provides the best possible chance for that to happen. We do everything we can to contextualize writing with fun. If he looks around him and sees new friends scribbling about an exciting activity he just participated in, he may feel the impulse to scribble along. If he never does feel that impulse, he will still have written every day for two weeks. Simply by virtue of daily practice, writing should at least become something normal and not-scary. It’s always easier to dread that which we avoid.

What does a typical day look like?

Campers are dropped off between 8:00 and 8:30 each morning. As they wait for the camp day to begin, they connect with other campers over games, cards, or art projects. We start the day with an opening circle to get excited about the day’s schedule. During this time, counselors return journals with comments and campers work on revision assignments. Then, it’s off to sports or an off-campus activity like kung fu, followed by journal writing. After lunch, campers participate in another activity, followed by journal writing. During afternoon free time, campers might choose to swim in the Simmons pool, play sports, or play inside games. Each day ends with a closing circle, which gives campers a chance to share their writing and receive appreciative feedback from peers and counselors.

How are the activities connected to the writing?

We carefully select activities that require campers to participate, invest, engage, and take risks. Our campers have tasted unfamiliar fruits at Future Chefs, conquered heights in rock climbing, and learned new athletic maneuvers playing ultimate Frisbee. We’ve found these kinds of activities can motivate a camper to write vividly and powerfully, putting to work the skills and habits we cultivate in the classroom. Following each activity, campers write in response to a prompt that asks them to reflect on a particular moment, e.g., a moment they felt clumsy or a moment they felt proud.

What do you mean when you say Summer Ink encourages campers to take social and academic risks?

Summer Ink attracts campers from the city and surrounding suburbs, from varied economic circumstances and ethnic backgrounds. In this diverse setting, we challenge campers to actively reach out to each other – whether just saying hello or including someone in a game or working together to paddle a canoe. In an environment of friendship and inclusion, campers feel able to take the leap of sharing their writing with others.

My child has sports after camp. Can I pick her up early each day?

We strongly encourage full day attendance at Summer Ink. The skills we teach build over time, and your child will not get the full benefit of our program if she regularly misses camp. We suggest that you avoid scheduling vacations and other activities during camp time whenever possible. That being said, we understand that sometimes missing camp is unavoidable and we will do our best to accommodate these situations.


What’s the difference between the Simmons Camp (for 5th through 8th graders) and Boston & Beyond (for 9th and 10th graders)? Can students attend both programs?

We have many campers who “graduate” from Simmons into Boston & Beyond. While the Simmons Camp is based largely at Simmons College, Boston & Beyond campers venture off campus into the neighborhoods of the city, tasting foods, learning local histories, and working on travel writing projects. For more information about Boston & Beyond, see the Boston & Beyond FAQs below.

Boston & Beyond

How is Boston & Beyond different from the Simmons Camp?

Boston & Beyond is for rising 9th and 10th graders while the Simmons Camp is for students in grades 5 through 8. Boston & Beyond emphasizes travel writing skills. The Simmons Camp focuses on more general writing fundamentals. Boston & Beyond campers travel off the Simmons campus every day.

What places will we go? What will we do on field trips?

Boston & Beyond campers take daily field trips in and around Boston. You will visit various neighborhoods in the city, including the North End, Chinatown, and Downtown Crossing, as well as outlying areas such as Jamaica Plain, Concord, Salem, and others.

 

Our activities vary from year to year. You might visit a forge and try your hand at aluminum casting, tour a reconstructed 18th-century Chinese home, canoe or kayak on the Charles River, cook, or practice martial arts. We try to strike a good balance between sports, arts, nature, adventure, and other activities like food tasting, which we know will inspire vivid and lively writing.

Do campers who have attended the Simmons Camp go on to attend Boston & Beyond?

Yes, we have many Simmons students who continue on to Boston & Beyond, but we have many new campers each year as well. You will not be at a disadvantage if you have not attended the Simmons camp.

If I attended the Simmons Camp previously, will I learn something new at Boston & Beyond?

Yes, you definitely will. The core philosophy of the camps is the same and we focus on some of the same key writing skills, but the Boston & Beyond curriculum adds a new ingredient: travel writing! We have found that exploration, in writing and life, speaks to the interests of high school students.

Can I really improve my writing in just two weeks?

Absolutely! Here’s why:
• Studies show that the more you write, the more confident and competent you become. Like anything, whether playing the piano or improving your batting average, daily practice makes the difference. Writing two or three times a day at camp helps build your writing “muscle.”
• These two weeks give you a chance to take a breath and focus on your writing – instead of having to bounce among math, science, social studies, etc., as you do during the school year.
• You will learn helpful writing techniques you can take with you into high school, college, and beyond. A writing skill set lasts a lifetime.

How do the program activities lead to better writing?

The kind of writing we do at Boston & Beyond is different from the writing you do in school. At Boston & Beyond, you write immediately after experiencing an activity, so the details are fresh in your mind. Plus, visiting new places and tackling new challenges gives you an authentic reason to write. We want you to feel a personal connection to your topic. No arbitrary writing assignments here.

How much feedback will I get on my writing? How will it help me become a better writer?

At Boston & Beyond, you will receive daily feedback on your writing from experienced English teachers, college students, and fellow campers. Every night a counselor takes your journal home to read your entries and provide written feedback. The counselor will highlight what you did well on that day’s writing and suggest a revision to improve a particular skill. The next morning at camp, you will have time to complete this brief, specific revision.

 

In school, your writing is likely evaluated by a single teacher who also has to attend to the needs of a classroom full of students. But at Boston & Beyond, you get to receive feedback from multiple people. Whether you’re a strong writer or a struggling writer, this individualized attention will enable you to gain insight into your abilities so you can grow.

Is Boston & Beyond like going to summer school?

No, it is much more interactive – and dare we say, fun? – than a traditional English class. At Boston & Beyond, you begin to see that writing is something you can do anywhere, anytime, on any topic. Rather than sit alone in front of a blank computer screen, you get to write in a supportive, friendly, social atmosphere.

Who will my counselors be? What is the camper to counselor ratio?

Senior Counselors are English teachers or graduate students. Junior Counselors are college students with an interest in writing, and many have attended Summer Ink as campers. We select counselors who are energetic, fun-loving, and nurturing, with a knack for motivating campers and keeping things light. Ask any Summer Ink camper and they will tell you: the counselors are a highlight of the camp experience!

Our camper-to-counselor ratio is 4:1.

How can I use the skills I learn at Boston & Beyond in my academic life?

At Boston & Beyond you will do a lot of writing-in-the-moment, on a particular topic, within a fixed period of time. This kind of spontaneous writing will prepare you for college entrance exams (like the SATs or ACTs) and Advanced Placement exams, which require you to write to a prompt under timed conditions. At Boston & Beyond, you get to practice this skill in a fun, low-risk setting. We also emphasize the skill of focus – which is essential to all forms of writing. We have noticed that many young writers struggle to focus their writing, which makes it easy for both the writer and the reader to get lost. After two weeks of honing your sense of focus, you will learn to become your own editor, trimming your work to a singular purpose or moment.

I don’t love to write. Is Boston & Beyond a camp for strong writers only?

No! Boston & Beyond is ideal for both avid writers and those who feel less certain of their abilities. No matter the skill level, everyone can improve with practice and feedback. That’s a value that bonds all campers – we’re all in the same boat. Also, our feelings about writing tend to reflect specific positive or negative experiences we’ve had in the past. If you think you’re a bad writer or don’t like to write, that may be because you’ve had a negative experience or have felt forced to do a kind of writing you don’t enjoy. But at Boston & Beyond, we stress positivity as a core value. Camp can be an opportunity to build a memorable experience with a new kind of writing you may not have tried before. 


Do I have to share my writing?

At Boston & Beyond, we believe writing is a powerful way for people to share their real emotions, observations, and insights with others. We know that can feel scary. But what makes it less scary – exhilarating, even – is when you know you’re in a supportive environment of people who want you to succeed and are eager to point out your strengths. And, by sharing your writing with others and hearing public appreciation of your strengths, you can begin to build confidence in your capabilities.

 

There are several opportunities to share throughout the day. During “writing workshops,” you get to share some of your favorite pieces and receive feedback on how to expand your work from a Senior Counselor, Junior Counselor, and a small group of peers. We also begin each camp day with an opening circle where we highlight excerpts from campers’ writing, and we end the day in closing circle, where campers have the opportunity to read writing they are particularly proud of.