August 04, 2021 Category: Our Programs Partnerships

Fresh Air Summer 2021: Creating New Friendships and Strengthening Community

Every summer at The Fresh Air Fund is extraordinary and summer 2021 has continued that tradition! This summer we built on and expanded the programs which were designed and launched in summer 2020 in response to the pandemic. With creativity and commitment we have continued to reimagine summer and find ways to ensure New York City children have fun, have new experiences and make new friends.

This summer, we launched a new program Friendly Towns Connect, and expanded our Family Wellness, Summer Teen Academy and Enrichment Programs.  A combination of in-person and virtual programs connects New York City children to the outdoors and provides opportunities for them to engage, build confidence and learn new skills in a safe environment.  

Fresh Air Summer Spaces 

For Summer 2021, Fresh Air Summer Spaces is back with favorite activities from last summer including hula hoop contests, jumping rope, soccer, obstacle courses and arts and crafts like creating kites and kaleidoscopes! We’ve also added some fun new activities focused on STEM, art and literacy.  

We love hula-hooping at Fresh Air Summer Spaces!
Photo: Meredith Zinner Photography

Summer Spaces offers both a morning and afternoon session, Monday – Thursday, for children ages 5-12, to play at safe neighborhood-based locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens.  The program was launched in summer 2020 with generous support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, The JPB Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Our incredible partners have brought engaging activities and resources to our Summer Spaces sites. Teaching artists from the American Ballet Theatre have returned this summer offering kids the opportunity to experience the joy of dance. The Queens Public Library has brought the Mobile Library to our sites in Jackson Heights and the Brooklyn Public Library has brought the Kidsmobile and story time to our Brooklyn sites. Fresh Air families have been so excited to get library cards and check out books right at our Summer Spaces sites!  

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The BioBus has brought the excitement of science experiments to Summer Spaces!
Photo: Caroline McCarthy

The BioBus has brought the excitement of hands-on science activities to many of our sites, turning Summer Spaces into an outdoor laboratory! Guided by educators, kids look into telescopes, make observations and hypotheses, giving kids the chance to discover new interests and learn about the environment. The ASCAP Foundation has brought music instructors to several of our sites and we look forward to the USTA joining us later this summer!  A partnership with Brighter Bites has brought fresh produce boxes to give to families and OneSight has offered free vision screenings and, if needed, referrals to a clinic for free glasses.  

When asked about her favorite part of Fresh Air Summer Spaces, Nine-year-old Soledad said, “I really like making new friends! We get to do arts and crafts together and my counselors are really nice and help me all the time.” 

NYC kids are getting outside and staying active this summer at Summer Spaces in Sunset Park! They are having fun hula hooping, playing games and making crafts! 
Photo: Liz Ligon
With counselors cheering them on, kids compete for who can jump the highest at Fresh Air Summer Spaces in the Bronx!  
Photo: Claudio Papapietro 

Summer Teen Academy 

The Summer Teen Academy offers teens, ages 13 – 17, the opportunity to earn credentials, have internships and gain critical work experience. Workshops include career exploration and development opportunities, college readiness, leadership development and life skills for teens.  

The Summer Teen Academy includes a Credentialing Program, Job Readiness Training Program and an Internship Program. All programs offer stipends, which range from $500 – $1,000 depending on the time commitment required.  We have also expanded the Teen Enrichment Program which includes the Girls’ Empowerment Series and new Circle of Brotherhood program. 

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) students worked on vision boards to express what they wanted to gain from their Fresh Air Experience! 

The Credentialing Program includes programs that focus on Architecture and Urban Design, Environmental Education, Video Game Design and Entrepreneurship. 

Virtual Design students are working on a typography map of Governors Island and will be designing their own reimagination of the island.
Photo: Gaja Papa 

The Design Studio program in partnership with PennPraxis at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design teaches Fresh Air teens about urban design through a curriculum that weaves together multiple disciplines including art, design, activism, architecture and landscape architecture.  

Teens learn and explore Governor’s Island as part of the hybrid program with a combination of virtual and in-person programming. The students work on hands-on projects that combine design and art with a focus on social impact. 

“My favorite part is the people – the people I work with, counselors and mentors are all really cool. I might want to be an engineer one day. I enjoy building and welding and want to make something for other people,” 15-year-old Jaydyn said.  

Fresh Air Family Wellness 

The Fresh Air Family Wellness program has expanded this summer to offer overnight trips. Families stay at our camps in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley for two nights/three day camping adventures! Surrounded by nature, lakes and hiking trails, families enjoy activities including fishing, swimming, archery and boating. 

“This was my family’s first-time trying archery (including me) and we liked it very much! It was also our first time sleeping in a cabin. We all liked it even though it is out of our comfort zone. We also had a really good experience with swimming because the pool is not crowded – it’s great family time,” Fresh Air parent, Biyi Lin said.  

At Fresh Air Family Wellness, families explored different activities together – including a trip to the Model Farm where they even petted animals!
Photo: Joan Barker
Through the Fresh Air Family Wellness program, the Kizhnerman family had an opportunity to bond and connect through an outdoor adventure creating memories that will last a lifetime!
Photo: Joan Barker 

Fresh Air Everywhere 

What do campers tell us they like most about Fresh Air Everywhere? Making new friends, creating art and learning about nature! As part of our virtual camp Fresh Air Everywhere children ages 7-12 participate in nine-day sessions which include interactive art projects, hands-on STEM activities, environmental education lessons and virtual team building activities. 

All smiles and two thumbs up from our Fresh Air Everywhere campers! They had so much fun learning about nature, creating fun art and making new friends.
Hands up if you love Fresh Air Everywhere! Campers had lessons about wildlife, music, art and even improv acting classes this summer. 

Friendly Towns Connect 

The Friendly Towns Connect Program gives Fresh Air youth ages 7 – 12 and volunteer host families the chance to participate in live virtual programming including virtual field trips to Friendly Towns states and featured NYC sites!  

Friendly Towns Connect participants had a virtual field trip to Saratoga Springs, NY to visit the Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga (THS), a nonprofit organization that supports retired racehorses by rescuing and retraining them as therapy-assistance animals. The group met with THS’s representatives, saw the therapeutic horses and participated in an interactive Question-and-Answer activity.  
During Friendly Towns Connect, kids took a deep dive into the ocean and learned about different sea animals!  

Open Spaces 

In partnership with the City Parks Foundation, children ages 12- 15 participate in environmental education, STEM or sports activities as part of three programs: Coastal Classroom, Learning Gardens and Everyday Play. The program is located at several city parks including Pelham Bay Park, Forest Park and Socrates Sculpture Park!

Open Spaces is an ace! Campers were able to practice new skills like tennis, yoga and more at Pelham Bay Park.
Photo: Caroline McCarthy 
Going for gold! As part of the Open Spaces Everyday Play program, NYC teens practice their track and field skills and even learned how to jump over hurdles!  
Photo: Kaylyn Atkins

“Everyone should try Open Spaces to get active outside! It’s a really cool experience meeting people you’ve never met before. I get to play with my friends and explore different activities. I also get to play soccer and now we’re playing tennis which is really fun,” 13-year-old Anthony said.  

Read more about the impact of summer and the importance of providing transformative experiences for NYC Children!