Hamptons Mom Enid Viana O’Brien sat down with Aaron Goldschmidt founder & creator of SHINE which offers children’s programming and summer camp both in NYC and in the HAMPTONS.
Tell us more about the concept behind Shine?
In all of my years as an educator and then as creative director of Citibabes, I realized there was a need for both innovative and creative programming as well as flexibility and convenience and that the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Ultimately, Shine provides the best classes, most creative and engaging parties and events, and the coolest summer Hamptons programming all while being able to bring them to you directly to you or run them just about anywhere.
What is your professional background and how has it shaped/ inspired your Shine curriculum etc?
I have been fortunate enough to have a varied and multi-disciplined career and personal past that I think directly impacts and inspires Shine’s curriculum. I began as a writer and performing artist, all while working with kids, first as a babysitter, manny, classroom assistant, and until I landed a teaching job at the 14th Street Y in the East Village of NYC where I was able to begin to create bridge programs for 2’s and 3’s and become head teacher of their Parenting & Family Center. I guess you can say that is where I really learned the most and spent nearly 7 years until I was hired by Citibabes. There I was tasked to develop and run their Citischoolpreschool alternative program and ultimately became Creative Director. My time there gave me a true understanding of the business side of things and that’s when I decided I did not want to have a brick and mortar space but rather give people all over the Tri-State area the opportunity to shine.
What are your Hamptons camp options?
We offer a lot of summer options. Our camps are the most popular and if I can be honest, my favorite part of the business. I just love our summers out East and we have worked so hard to create a magical experience for our campers. Our main camp is for 4-10 year old and runs 5 days a week for 9 weeks. We spend our days at some of the East End’s most iconic locations. CMEE & SoFo, the LongHouse Reserve, and Bridge Gardens. Fridays are pop-up days at different amazing locations many don’t have the opportunity to visit. Our mini-camp for 2’s and 3’s runs shorter hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the same location as our older camp making it super convenient for families. We are open to adding more than 2 days for our younger camp if the demand is there. We are also now offering an afternoon arts/tennis camp on T, W, and/or TH in conjunction with Hampton Racquet from 3:45pm-6pm.
Explain some pop up options for a mom that may want to host one in her Hamptons home over the summer.
With enough notice we can help to organize at home classes for babies up through elementary aged kids and custom design it to the interest of the group. From a Mommy and Me music class to and after camp constructive arts class for older kids, we come to you and do it all. Often, parents with kids under 3 don’t have a lot of summer option so we try and provide weekly classes at times that work as well as after camp-classes for kids that still have energy in the afternoon and weekends.
What families do you find the most synergy with from a camp/ pop up perspective?
We have been so fortunate to create some amazing relationships with our summer families. We tend to be self-selecting as the type of family that attends appreciates our focus on the creative arts and nature, old-school camp values, variety of locations, and our small, intimate size where their kids don’t get lost or herded around but seen, and heard, and appreciated.
What sets you apart from the many camp options out east?
I think our flexibility and small intimate size. We don’t accept more than 30 kids per day and campers can chose between 1-5 days of camp per week. But other than those things, I think the intention with which I began the camp…the love of art, nature, being outside, and infusing kids today with a little bit of my “old-school”camp ideals – arts & crafts, community, a little bit of freedom, and a whole lot of fun.
What do you love the most about being out east in the summer time?
How can I choose??? Summer is what brought me out here to begin with but I am now here all year and love so many aspects of the East End throughout the different seasons. I love the beach. Period. But, I LOVE to cook (and eat) so after the beach I would have to say all the amazing farm stands and array of deliciousness available to us during the summer months.
How do you incorporate the natural landscape and resources of the Hamptons with your camp curriculum?
We say that we celebrate all things Hamptons and the natural flora and fauna is a huge part of that, obviously. It is absolutely spectacular out here and we utilize that as the backdrop to almost everything we do…from a walking tour of Old Sag Harbor to a day spent on the grounds of the LongHouse Reserve. We spend 2 days a week outside surrounded by nature and every Wednesday we get specialized lessons, nature walks, and private instruction at SoFo, Our curriculum celebrates local art and artists, architecture, history, animals, the beach, the bay, and more! Selfishly, I think my love for it out here is the foundation of all that we do at camp.
What if a mom/family wants to do two weeks in the beginning of July and then two weeks at the end of August?
As long as she let’s us know upon signing up and with enough notice we can accommodate any kind of schedule. We’ve had a camper the last few years who only comes Friday and Monday due to his family’s work schedule. I am so happy I can still provide them the Shine Hamptons experience. There are not manyprograms that provide that kind of flexibility.
What if a mom wants her child or children to attend camp but her children aren’t really into athletics?
We are not a sports camp. At all. I loved the experience of summer camp mostly for all the options and the variety of activities. If a kid is dying to go to sports camp, we are not the best choice. However I do bring in specialists to do some sports, as well as someone to come and do physical games, and someone for yoga. There is definitely always an option to go run around and be physical but as for sports it’s limited and usually offered as a choice.
What is your favorite part about working with children?
Children are endlessly fascinating. I cherish my time with them and can’t imagine working in an office full of adults all day. Kids are honest, imaginative, creative, and ultimately provide some of the most interesting perspectives on the world. Our all camp morning meeting tends to turn into the most engaging conversation and often, I need to cut it short otherwise the kids would keep going for hours and we would miss a day of activities. I think we provide a staff that really knows how to talk with and listen to children and that is so rare for a camp. The kids really respond.
What is the perfect age to fully appreciate all that Shine has to offer as far as programming goes?
Our programming is custom designed for 6 months – 12 years. I would say our summer camps are best served for kids 2-10. The majority of our campers are between 4-9. We do have some older kids that keep coming back because they love it so much. We will let kids come until they are in college!!! Seriously though, once they hit 10, if they want to come back we give them some “oldest camper responsibilities”. They still love it!
How do the children get to and from the camp do you offer bus options?
Due to our small size, we are strictly a drop-off and pick-up program. We offer early drop-off and late pick-up if that works better with schedules and begin before any 9:30am adult fitness classes begin. We help to arrange carpools but find that our families like the experience of drop–off and pick-up as they get to experience these beautiful locations and interact with the staff, other families, and me. It makes it feel much more a community. Not every family is comfortable putting young kids on buses and we don’t have the numbers to justify the price increase it would require to have a bus. We are looking into a van this year to move kids around who come on Fridays for our pop-up locations. We also have the process down to a science and make it as easy as possible.
How many children are in the camp groups ?
We don’t take more than 10-12 per day for our 2’s and 3’s camp. For our older camp we don’t take more than 30. I fully love ans employ the idea of a “one-room schoolhouse” environment and often the camp is together which makes it really nice for siblings or friends not exactly the same age. For activities that are best served broken down by age (chess, sports, certain arts)we split into two groups, roughly ages 4-6 and 7-10.
How far in advance would the Shine team need in order to put together a pop up class?
Let’s just say summer is VERY busy and our staff is limited out East so the sooner the better. Being a concierge type business, we will always try and make a class happen but the longer one waits the more difficult it is to staff and schedule.
How much inspiration do you draw from nature when planning the camp curriculum?
I would say that nature is a main inspiration in all we do in the summer. I mean, look where we are! Any program that isn’t using the natural flora and fauna of the East End to inspire mostly city kids is really missing an opportunity.
Is there a swim component to any of your camps?
No. Due to the iconic locations where we spend our days, swimming just doesn’t fit in. To be honest, most of our families have pools at home and kids spend all afternoon and weekends in the pool. For the 5-hour camp day I don’t think it’s necessary. The amount of time it takes just to get kids in and out of bathing suits eats an hour of the day and I think our clients would prefer we use that time to do what we do best. I do work with some amazing swim instructors and am always happy to help broker at-home lessons.
How many kids per adult/counselor in each camp group?
We like to have a 5:1 camper/teacher ratio.
Do you do any special field trips or bring in any special guests during camp?
Every Friday is spent at a different pop-up location, from Nova’s Ark, to Old Sag Harbor, to Madoo, and so many more. Aside from our regular mixof permanent locations, this adds some adventure and excitement in every week. We also bring in a local artist or artisan every Wednesday to do a workshop with interested campers…from pottery to weaving to cooking and more.
What is your goal for each camper that goes to Shine summer camp?
That they leave every day happy, tired, inspired, and just a little bit more appreciative of a life outside the city.
How do you handle a particularly shy camper? How would you get them to engage?
I tend to think “shy” is bad word mostly because of the connotations it has in relation to the one displaying the behavior. Often, shy kids are “reserved” kids, or “cautious” kids, or “nervous” kids. I think the way to get them to engage is first by acknowledging that they do not have to participate in anything and can just watch until they feel like they are ready. This immediate empowerment takes any pressure off. Usually, we are having so much fun and our staff so engaging and skilled at speaking with children as opposed to to them that we don’t have to wait to long before everyone is involved as a group. I firmly believe though that all children have their own schedule before being ready to “jump in” and we do not try to force them but instead take their lead.
How would you handle a bullying situation?
I am so fortunate that because of the kind of campers we attract, bullying is so rare. I also make it very clear from the beginning that bullying is not something I stand for. I do think that in those rare instances it’s most important to empower the one being bullied; to give the words and confidence to respond in a way that makes him or her feel better and feel heard. I tend to not to give too much negative attention, as I believe that can lead to the wrong kind of attention seeking. I can assure you that the one doing the bulling will also have to engage in a conversation with one of the teachers or me, but it will not be a large public spectacle.
Describe your Shine campers
The best, most creative, well-rounded, loving, open, fun, intelligent kids in the world. But I’m not biased or anything.
When you’re not running camps, parties, pop ups and more where can you be found in the Hamptons?
I love my little place in Sag Harbor and try to nest as much as possible when I am out East. If I’m not at home either decompressing orentertaining I am at the beach or pool-hopping at friends’ places!
What is your favorite place out east that makes you the happiest?
The beach. I am a total beach bum and I try to spend as much time there as I can there year-round. Peter’s Pond is my spot.
Thank you so much Aaron for taking the time to help us SHINE today 🙂
From July 1 through August 30, celebrate all things Hamptons at Shine’s Summer Camps!
Shine’s full experience summer camp is for children ages 4 – 10 years and will be held Monday through Friday, from 9:15 am to 2:30 pm. Mondays and Wednesdays will be held at the Children’s Museum of the East End, Tuesdays at LongHouse Reserve, Thursdays at Bridge Gardens, and Fridays will be spent exploring iconic East End locations.
Shine’s Mini Camp for 2s/3s allows children ages 2 – 3.5 years to have a gentle morning at camp that will include art, music and movement, nature exploration, free-play, snack, and more. It will be held on Tuesdays (at LongHouse Reserve) and Thursdays (at Bridge Gardens) from 9:15 am to 12:00 pm.
We are also pleased to offer an Afternoon Tennis / Art Camp on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 3:45 to 6:00 pm. Created specifically for the summer season, this new partnership program combines the worlds of sports and arts and is filled with fun and learning for ages 4 to 12.