Back in 2002, Evanston native Tajalli Horvat became Galileo’s first full-time employee. Since then, she’s made innumerable contributions to Galileo’s camp programs and company culture. When we opened our first camps in Chicagoland in the summer of 2016, we knew we had to have Tajalli at the wheel. Tajalli heads up our camp’s operations in the midwest, working alongside her team to oversee everything from local recruiting, marketing and development efforts, to field operations and beyond.
Galileo’s emphasis on innovation and design results in children exploring the unknown, making mistakes, and then analyzing and reflecting upon those mistakes so they can leverage that insight in the future. With its variety of programs, Galileo offers pre-K through 8th graders a blend of traditional day camp culture and an engaging learning experience with design thinking and project-based learning.
It’s a deliberate formula that leads to success. As Tajalli explains, “Lots of camp programs focus exclusively on knowledge and learning, but at Galileo, that’s just one part of the equation. We strive to develop that innovator’s mindset and process, nurturing kids in several areas, while ensuring it’s social, fun and engaging. After all, that’s what summer is all about—fun, socialization and exploration.” Campers participate in opening and closing ceremonies, all-camp games, water day activities, themed dress up days and more.
On Galileo’s Staff
A large part of Galileo’s fun, supportive environment comes down to the people. From full-time employees like Tajalli to our first-year counselors, we pride ourselves on our staff. We meticulously interview and train each staff member, ensuring that only the best and most passionate candidates work with our campers. It’s this strategy that allows our programs to make the most of the carefully architected curriculum.
Galileo places great emphasis on hiring the right team. As Tajalli sees it, “Galileo’s secret sauce is the staff. Ultimately, if you don’t have great staff, It doesn’t matter how good the curriculum is. We continuously focus on hiring great people who will support and engage our campers. They must be passionate about working with kids.” Most of Galileo’s team members have an education-related background, such as teachers, after-school educators and college students who are pursuing a degree in education, and every lead instructor working with Galileo’s campers is a college graduate.
On Galileo’s Summer Program for Kids
Many Chicago summer camps span four or even eight weeks, which can be challenging for families who are planning other summer activities. This makes Galileo summer camps’ one-week sessions particularly appealing. Programs run from 9 am – 3 pm daily, with extended care from 8 am – 9 am and 3 pm – 6 pm, optional lunch, and an extensive financial assistance program.
“We consider our program to be part specialty camp and part enrichment. It’s not just sitting in a classroom and performing experiments. These kids are having fun!” Unlike camps that target athletes or dedicated scholars, Galileo camps are designed for everyone. As Tajalli sees it, “Galileo’s curriculum is really for all kids—not just children who are interested in science and computers. All kids need to develop into innovators, so we have physical activities, as well as art activities, science and engineering projects.” Galileo aims to engage the child as a whole, mentally, physically and socially.
So what can you expect when your child arrives for their summer camp experience? Well, each session is different, which is ideal for children who opt to attend multiple weeks. For our pre-kindergarten through 5th graders at Camp Galileo, our full-time curriculum development team has worked year-round to create a program that’s based around four fun themes. Upcoming Summer 2019 themes are “Renaissance Adventure,” “Expedition To Everest,” “Deep Ocean Explorers” and “Maker’s Workshop.” 5th through 8th graders get to explore the “majors” of their choice, ranging from “Chefology,” to “Go Kart Builders,” to “YouTubeⓇ Producers.” Your kids can delve into a single topic over a week, or they can choose to explore multiple different themes or majors over the entire summer.
Tajalli saw the results of this approach in her own children following their time at Galileo, but she’s far from alone. She remembers a particular email she received from the mother of a camper who spent two weeks at one of Galileo’s Chicago camps this past summer. He was a smart kid who was constantly bored and in need of stimulation who evolved into an innovative child with a can-do attitude and the motivation to seek out engaging activities and projects. The mother’s email expressed how her son went from offering generic, halfhearted answers when asked about his day to providing enthusiastic, detailed replies about the day’s activities. “He was practically bursting with excitement, and that enthusiasm was carrying over into other areas of his life, too,” Tajalli reminisces. It’s a consistent story for the rest of the over 50,000 campers Galileo has served, and Tajalli loves seeing the results.
Tajalli’s children entered kindergarten and the 3rd grade this fall, and she credits Galileo with cultivating in them an excitement for learning and a determination to navigate and learn from challenges. While other parents were worried about their child’s transition into kindergarten, Tajalli’s daughter was very prepared for the switch—something that she attributes to her experiences at camp. “Starting school can represent a big change, but Galileo can really help with that transition. Campers spend the summer with nurturing staff, they engage with hands-on art and science activities designed specifically for early learners, they build teamwork skills through outdoor activities and games and they have fun with new friends at our kinder-only destination, Nebula Land.”
For parents who are still on the fence about enrolling their child at one of Galileo’s Chicago summer camps, Tajalli has this to say: “We’d love the opportunity to have your child attend Galileo this summer. You and your child will experience what makes Galileo so special from the moment you arrive to the very last day. Our staff and program are incredible, and you’ll not only provide your child with a great summer camp experience, but you will be investing in helping them develop in ways that will support them for the rest of their life.”
Summer’s just around the corner, and we’d love to see you at camp this year. Whether it’s a one week-long session or more, you can go into the summer knowing that it will be both fun and transformative for your child. Click below to learn more about our Chicago summer camp locations. ????