VIMS Marine Science Camps-Gloucester & Eastern Shore

Summer camps engage kids

In the words of one youngster, “This was the best camp in the history of camps.” He was referring to one of the weeklong camps on offer again this summer through the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

The camps, led by Education Coordinator Sarah McGuire of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at VIMS, bring big smiles to more than 100 elementary and middle school students from in and around Gloucester County each year.

They are made possible by a gift from an anonymous private donor to the VIMS Foundation. The camp program is funded to run for five years (2009-2013)

During each of five weeklong sessions, campers get wet and muddy at sites around the Bay, from the VIMS Teaching Marsh to the Goodwin Islands and the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore. Depending on age, they explore marshes and wetlands; seine in the York River; handle a dip net; collect and examine birds, fish, and plants; use microscopes and field guides; and complete projects that will benefit the Bay.

Older, sleep-away campers head to VIMS’ Eastern Shore Laboratory, where they visit both the Bay and ocean side lagoons, canoe, bird watch, explore barrier islands and mud flats, collect animals, study dune ecology, and more.

Camp enrollment is by a lottery for the younger students and by a written essay for the older students, with camp size ranging from 15 students to 24 students per session depending on age. Feedback from parents and campers from previous years makes it clear that those selected are lucky campers indeed:

  • Thanks for getting my son really excited about something other than sports and video games.”
  • “It was so fun and it changed my life. I can’t wait for the next one.”
  • “It was one of my best times ever.”
  • “Thanks for letting this camp exist. It’s the best camp ever. My favorite thing was everything”

For details and to enroll, visit

The following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the VIMS Summer camp programs.

  • Why is there a lottery system as opposed to signing up first come, first serve?

The lottery system was implemented in 2010 to make the application fairer for all students, schools, and families. Everyone has equal time to find out about the camps and get their applications turned in.

  • What are the times of the camps?

The Sea Squirts, Bay Buddies, and Chesapeake Champions camps run from 9am-4pm. Estuary Explorers will run from 9am on Monday, July 25th through mid day on Saturday, July 30th.

  • Where do the camps take place?

The Sea Squirts, Bay Buddies, and Chesapeake Champions camps are held at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, VA. Estuary Explorers will leave from VIMS in Gloucester Point, but we will spend the week at the VIMS Eastern Shore campus in Wachapreague, VA.

  • Which camps are day camps and which are overnight?

Only the Estuary Explorers camp for rising 7th and 8th grade students is overnight.

  • I have multiple students in the same age group. Is it possible to sign up all of my students for the same camp?

You may sign up as many students as you would like for a camp. However, each individual student must be selected by either the lottery system (for grades 1-4) or application process (for grades 5-8) in order to be able to attend the camp. That is, if one of your students receives is selected for a spot in the camp, it does NOT guarantee that their sibling/friend also has a spot.

  • I have students in different age groups. Can my 7th grader attend the 4th grade camp so that they can attend camp in the same week?

No. All students must apply for the camp designated for their own age group.

  • Why are there two sessions of the Sea Squirts camp and not two sessions for other age groups?

Last year, the demand for a camp for the 1st and 2nd grade age group was the highest. We are offering two sessions of the Sea Squirts camp to accommodate that demand. Due to time limitations in the summer, we are not able to offer additional sessions of any other camp.

  • When I turn in my application, does that guarantee my student a spot in the camp?

No. Turning in an application does NOT guarantee your student a spot in the camp. For the Sea Squirts and Bay Buddies camp, the application enters your student into a lottery for camp spots. For the Chesapeake Champions and Estuary Explorers, the application will be used by a review panel to select students for the camp. On April 8th you will receive an email notifying you if your student was selected (either through the lottery system or application process) for a spot in the camp.

  • When will I know if my student is selected for camp?

All students will be notified on April 8th if they were selected for camp.

  • I completed the online application for Chesapeake Champions. Is that all I need to do?

No. For Chesapeake Champions and Estuary Explorers, there are Statement of Interest essay questions that must also be answered and emailed to Sarah McGuire at These questions must EACH be 150 words for Chesapeake Champions, and 250 EACH for Estuary Explorers. This is the primary way that we select students for these two camps so please encourage your student to spend some time working on their essays.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s