Camp Galileo opens new branch in Berkeley

Kids make clay molds of fruit and fruit bowls at Camp Galileo’s new Berkeley location. Photos: Izzy ben Izzy

By Izzy ben Izzy

Camp Galileo, the Oakland-based learning camp whose programs cover subjects including science, art, outdoors and technology, has moved into Berkeley with a branch located at Cragmont Elementary School.

The campsite used to be in El Cerrito, but many of the children who attended lived in Berkeley, and so when the site at Cragmont became available, it made sense for Camp Galileo to make the move.

“We’ve always wanted to have a campsite in Berkeley, as the community values the things we have to teach,” said Chris Goetz, Galileo Camp Director for the East Bay. “Every one of our camps takes on the personality of its community. Each camp has different traditions, but they all have the same curriculum and quality,” he said.


There will be six weeks of Camp Galileo in Berkeley this summer, each of which has an intricately designed theme and related activities. The week of July 4th through 8th was called “Detective in Paris”. “We’re helping Sherbock Holmes solve the mystery of who stole the painting and the sculpture,” said camper Alexander S. The famous detective’s name is modified to include a reference to the camp’s mascot, a delightful rubber chicken.

Fishing for clues as part of the “Impressionism and the Science of Sleuthing” program at Camp Galileo in Berkeley

The kids are divided by age into Nebulas, Stars, and Supernovas. Within these are seven color groups. Each group does activities in which they learn about the theme of the week, which in this case includes “Impressionism and the Science of Sleuthing.” All of the kids rotate between Art, Science, and Outdoors. They also have free time to do things such as drawing.

When Berkeleyside visited the new camp, the kids in the Art section were making block prints of teapots and cups, inspired by Mary Cassatt. Other kids were making clay molds of fruit and fruit bowls, inspired by the many French fruit paintings.

Kids in the Science section were building catapults and levers, which they could use to throw grappling hooks to the top of the Eiffel Tower (or their three-foot version of it, at any rate), where it is said that the stolen objects were hidden. They also made fishing hooks, in case the stolen objects were hidden at the bottom of a lake.

The Outdoor kids were playing “steal the (rubber) chicken” with their counselor, in order to get in the mindset of a thief, so that they could figure out where the painting and sculpture are hidden. When playing outdoors, Camp Director Emily Sugarman said the kids were learning “collaboration and team building, working together.”

All of the art projects, science problems, and games, are designed to teach campers the “Galileo Innovation Approach.” First comes the Mindset, how the campers approach their work: kid are expected to be courageous, reflective, visionary, collaborative, and determined.

Next, the Knowledge, what the campers need to have and understand to get the most out of their time: the concepts and facts, historical context, skills and techniques, and audience and environment.


Finally, the Process, how the campers actually innovate: identify the goal, generate ideas, design, create, test, evaluate, and redesign. This approach to innovation allows campers to learn new skills that will help them face much harder challenges in their future.

Goetz said Camp Galileo’s purpose is “to develop innovators who envision and create a better world”.

Izzy ben Izzy is a lifelong and dedicated Berkeley resident, and will be a junior at Berkeley High School in September. She is excited to be interning with Berkeleyside this summer.