Ashley Betton believes in community. And the power of play. And the importance of creating a space where kids can have meaningful, enriching experiences. “Above all,” she says, “I truly believe that we could be learning a lot from our kids. The question I ask at Lacewing Kids Camp is: Is there a way to bridge problem solving with playtime, and what can we all learn in the process?”
Betton is the creator of Lacewing Kids Camp, a new half- or full-day camp offered at Bundle in Middlebury on days the ACSD schools are out of session. The next two sessions — featuring games, arts, problem-solving and more for kids ages 5-15 — are scheduled for March 6 and 27.
Before moving to Vermont three years ago, Betton developed kids’ enrichment programs at the Brooklyn Strategist, a vibrant community boardgame cafe in New York. With a background in musical theater, a love of community and play, and plenty of experience working as a nanny, she was well suited to the job.
Over the course of the seven years she was there, the Strategist grew from a little afterschool program with sawhorse table tops, she says, to an accredited curriculum of summer, enrichment and weekend programs that served 435 kids every week.
“It was wonderful, and I started getting a taste for developing community through enrichment programming,” recalls Betton. “It really kind of felt like I was interwoven in a lot of people’s lives.”
But Betton and her husband wanted to get out of the city. When they heard a friend was selling his house in Bridport, they jumped at the opportunity to relocate to Vermont.
Betton dreams of creating a community center in Middlebury, and building out her Lacewing Kids Camp, she says, is the first step.
So what do kids do all day at Lacewing?
“We pick a theme for the day,” explains Betton. At a Lacewing Kids Camp earlier this winter, the theme was “mantra.” “We were, like, OK, what’s a mantra? We decided on one and put it up on a giant piece of construction paper.” The rest of the day included games, guided play, storytelling and art, all tied together with the theme.
“By the time the parents show up we’ve got this big thing on the wall and we’re sharing the things that we’ve learned,” Betton says. “It’s been really fun.”