TOWNSEND -- Theme weeks, field trips and specialized classes are among the activities planned for the town's Summer Rec program this year.

Registration is now open for the summer programs, which recreation director Emy Hoff said provide students with a safe, fun environment on their summer vacations.

"They're being encouraged to try things they've never done before, or don't think they're good at, because there's no judgment there. Especially in the ages that we offer this, between 5 and 12, they're in such a world of exploration and Summer Rec is really a great place for them to explore who they are," Hoff said.

The program will be held from June 30 to Aug. 8, with no sessions on July 3-4, at the Squannacook Early Childhood Center.

Each week will have a theme, and will feature a daily arts and crafts activity and sports activity that each relate to the theme, as well as a field trip every Thursday.

Planned theme weeks include "land and air," "our town," "fantasy fun" and "water wild." Hoff said she has scheduled field trips to the Andres Institute of Art, Roll on America, Fitchburg Art Museum and Greenfield State Park.

During the "our town" week, students will meet with Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan to discuss how the town runs. They will also break into "committees" that will be responsible for organizing projects.

"There might be a building committee that would build some form of sculpture or bridge, the conservation committee might work on a project in the garden, the finance committee might make a budget to purchase something for the group," Hoff said.

Summer Rec students will be able to participate in activities hosted by the Townsend Public Library, including movie days.

In order to offer more programs this year, Hoff said, the Recreation Commission chose to raise rates this year.

For the full-day program, registration will be $600, compared to $400 last year. The half-day program will be $350, up from $255. Parents can also choose to purchase a five-day pass, good for any five full days throughout the program, $110. Last year, the five-day pass cost $85.

Hoff said the cost increases were necessary to continue to offer a high-quality service.

"Our rates have for years been under value by quite a bit, and with what we added last year and our plan to add value this year, I think the rates are in line with what we're doing," she said.

Other Summer Rec offerings include a "mad scientist" lab class, a class where students can take apart computers and an American Sign Language class. There will be a performing arts instruction week from Aug. 4-8, a production by Townsend TheatRecs, holding auditions June 20-21, and two week-long tennis camps.

Hoff encouraged parents to bring their children to Summer Rec in order to get them off their couches and out exploring the world.

"They're out and about, not just sitting home in front of the television or playing video games, but in a social interactive all day long where they're able to have an imagination and take part in decision-making," Hoff said.

"It's a free zone for kids. There's no barriers for specific talents or types of kids. There's no limits. The kids are there to have a good time and we're here to provide that with safety and new things that are interesting and open up their world," she added.

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