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2024 Camp Details

Click here to meet the summer staff!

Pre-Camp Checklist

  1. Complete medical forms and submit to CampBrain

  2. Complete questions on CampBrain

  3. Upload a photo of camper to CampBrain

  4. Upload a photo of health insurance card to CampBrain

  5. Upload a photo of vaccination card to CampBrain

  6. Chose a tee shirt size on CampBrain

  7. Properly package and label any medications for camp

  8. Read "Beyond the Bright Sea" by Lauren Wolk (*optional, but highly encouraged!)

Arrival & Check-In (Monday morning)

We can’t wait to meet everyone!

Where? Parents/guardians should bring campers to the Penikese Island School's Shore Office location at 565 Woods Hole Road in Woods Hole.

What time? Please arrive between 9:00-9:30am to drop off your camper.

Coming by ferry or on foot? Our Shore Office building is a short walk (uphill) from the Steamship Terminal in Woods Hole. 

Spending time in the village? We created a list of "Things to do in Woods Hole"

Medications Check-in

If your child is bringing prescription or over-the-counter medications to camp, please prepare the meds to be logged-in upon arrival:

  • Rx medications should be in original pharmacy container with label attached showing name of patient, name of medication, dosage instructions, prescribing doctor’s name and phone number.  Please also provide a note with the quantity of medication in the container, and any pharmacy medication info sheet.  Place all medication containers in a single ziplock bag labeled with your child’s name.

  • OTC meds should arrive in original manufacturer’s container clearly showing the name and instructions.  Please place all OTC containers together in a single ziplock bag labeled with your child’s name.

Departure & Check-Out (Friday afternoon)

Please plan to pick up your camper at the same Shore Office, 565 Woods Hole Road, between 3:30-4:00pm on Friday.

If you are not picking up your camper personally, we need written notification from you identifying who is coming to pick-up your child.  No child will leave camp with any person or family member other than a parent, without written authorization from the parent.


Weather and other variables may affect our return to the mainland. We appreciate your patience!

Spending the morning in Woods Hole before picking up your camper? We created a list of "Things to do in Woods Hole."

Getting to Penikese Island

The trip from Woods Hole to Penikese Island takes about one hour.  Campers are transported aboard the "Richard S. Edwards", a 36’ US Coast Guard inspected vessel, operated by a licensed captain.  She is a safe and comfortable vessel for up to 24 passengers.

All campers will always wear lifejackets onboard the boat.


We will have Dramamine tablets available at check-in. If your child is prone to motion sickness, you may want to consider this.

Our Island Home

The “Saltbox,” our main living quarters, is modeled on a 19th century New England farm house and was built, in large part, using salvaged beams found on and around Penikese Island.


The house uses solar panels for nominal electrical needs, wood for heating, and propane for cooking.  It has hot and cold running water, indoor & outdoor showers, and a clean composting Clivus Multrum toilet facility.  It can be used in any season of the year. The upstairs dorm space has twin beds arranged in a cozy, inviting set-up.  We can comfortably accommodate 18 residents at any time of year.

A short distance away from the Saltbox is a one-room schoolhouse.  We additionally have a spacious workshop building, a large productive garden, a ball court, and acres of beaches and of rolling grassy terrain to explore.

Suggested Packing List

Penikese Island is a very rustic place so campers should bring clothes that are not precious.  Shoes can take a beating, and white colored items - shirts, shoes, or shorts - can get dirty quickly.  Also flip flops are great for around the house but NOT for walking on the paths!


Items to bring for 5 days, 4 nights:

  • Sleeping bag or twin sheets and a blanket (we have extra clean blankets)

  • Pillow & pillowcase

  • Underwear (x5)

  • Shorts (x3)

  • T-shirts (x4)

    (everyone also receives a Penikese T-shirt at camp)

  • Long sleeved shirt (x1)

  • Comfortable walking shoes

  • Socks

  • Water shoes (optional)

  • Sweater/fleece/jacket (something warm for cool night-time weather)

  • Rain jacket

  • Pajamas

  • Swimsuit (x2)

  • Pants or sweatpants (x2)

  • Sun hat or baseball cap

  • Sunglasses

  • Sunscreen

  • Water bottle

  • 2 towels (a beach towel for salt water swimming and the other for fresh water showering) and/or quick-dry camping towels

  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap)

  • Feminine products, if needed (we will also have a supply on the island)

  • Plastic bag for dirty/wet clothes

  • Flashlight or headlamp

  • Book to read at night

  • Mask and snorkel (*optional, but if you have one - bring it!)


Items NOT to bring:

  • No phones or electronic devices

  • No jewelry or anything precious

"Beyond the Bright Sea" by Lauren Wolk

We highly recommend your camper read "Beyond the Bright Sea" by Lauren Wolk before coming to camp.


This wonderful historical fiction book takes place on the Elizabeth Islands and weaves in some of the history and lore of the former leper colony on Penikese Island.


"Beyond the Bright Sea" tells the story of Crow, a young girl who was abandoned and set adrift in a small boat when she was just hours old.  Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.  Crow has always been curious about the world around her and about her own family history.


This tensely-paced tale explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.  It is a fast and compelling read for all ages.  We hope you enjoy it!


Island-made meals eaten together three times a day are at the heart of the Camp program.  We provide plenty of healthy, vegetarian-focused, kid-friendly food in a cozy family-style setting, with two snack breaks each day on the island.


We can easily accommodate most special diets, including vegetarian, vegan, nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and most food-related allergies; please enter special food needs on your camper’s Medical History Form, and contact us in advance if your child requires any particularly unique accommodations.

An example of a typical day’s menu consists of: cereal, yogurt, and fruit for breakfast; build your own wrap (turkey, ham, cheese, vegetables, tofu, and/or Wowbutter & jelly), carrots & celery, trail mix, and cookies for lunch; and pasta with a choice of vegetarian or meat sauce, salad, and bread for dinner.

No soda. We serve water, milk, non-dairy milk, and juice.

Safety & Wellness

At Penikese, we are safety experts. We have safely housed hundreds of youth and have ferried thousands of visitors to Penikese Island over our 50 year history. The Massachusetts Department of Early & Secondary Education (DESE) has commended us on our health, safety, and emergency protocols. We are required to share information regarding meningitis with camper families, click here to read public safety information.


We are remote and we are prepared. Our staff is certified in First Aid, CPR, and AED. The Island and boat are equipped with extensive first aid and safety equipment; our staff has been trained how and when to use it. We run trainings with Boston Medflight for helicopter evacuation and with the US Coast Guard (Base Woods Hole & Base Menemsha). We have practiced and proven protocols for medical, fire, and severe weather emergencies.

House Doctor: Dr. Alan Steinbach, an experienced local Family Practitioner is our Consulting Physician. He is on call 24/7. We additionally have an highly experienced Licensed Mental Health Counselor on call to assist us if needed.

Daily Care: We conduct personal health screenings for every camper every day, so we always know how everyone at camp is feeling. Staff are aware of camper allergies and are trained to recognize and handle an allergic crisis. Medications are dispensed by the Island Stewards each morning or as indicated. All Health Center visits at camp — even for a blistered toe from new sneakers — are logged in detail. If a camper is just not feeling themselves, they may rest in their bunk or the infirmary at anytime, with a staff member attending.


Urgent Care: In case of serious camper illness or injury, should a child need to be transported off the Island, the parents/guardians will be contacted immediately and will be put in direct contact with a staff member, Dr. Steinbach, and at an appropriate time, with the camper.  Our boat will bring the patient to the nearest suitable port, according to medical need. Parents are responsible for all medical charges that may be incurred.


CampBrain Parent Portal: 
Registered families can log in to their secure CampBrain account at anytime to access, complete, or update enrollment forms, view payment and billing details, edit contact information, or camper medical information:

Announcements & Updates: 
We will share news and announcements via direct email to parents.

Photography and Videography

We will snap photos and videos during each Science + Nature Camp session.  Please understand we do not have paparazzi on staff.  Photographing camp activities is a second priority to running them well.  Photos will be shared with families at the end of each session.  Please don’t panic if you don’t spot your child in a group shot, or if there is not a clear face shot of your camper, or if your child does not happen to be smiling in a particular photo!


Questions about Camp? Concerns?

Families are welcome to contact our shore staff at any time.  During camp, our shore staff visit the island 2x week and are in contact with the island staff on a daily basis.  We are always willing to answer questions or investigate concerns for parents. 


General Weekly Schedule


Morning:   Camper arrival, introductions, walking tour of WH scientific institutions

12:00pm   Lunch in Woods Hole then depart for Penikese

Afternoon:   Unload gear and move into bunks, snack, orientation, tour and history of Penikese Island, free-time

Evening:   Dinner, free-time, Evening Circle 

9:00pm   Lights out


Morning:   Breakfast, Guest Scientist lessons, snack

Afternoon:   Lunch, Guest Scientist or Artist lessons, free-time

Evening:   Dinner, free-time, Evening Circle 

9:00pm   Lights out


Morning:   Breakfast, counselor-led activities, snack

Afternoon:   Lunch, free-time, counselor-led activities, free-time

Evening:   Dinner, free-time, Evening Circle 

9:00pm   Lights out


Morning:   Breakfast, Guest Scientist lessons, snack

Afternoon:   Lunch, Guest Scientist or Artist lessons, free-time

Evening:   Dinner, free-time, *Skit Night*, final Evening Circle

9:00pm   Lights out


Morning:   Breakfast, final Morning Circle, morning counselor-led activity

12:00pm   Lunch, clean-up & pack-up

2:30pm   Depart Penikese

3:30pm   Arrive in Woods Hole


For Campers:

NO ELECTRONICS: No phones, no tablets, no smart watches, etc. Leave them safely at home. We have high quality cameras for campers to use.

For Parents/Guardians:

  • Our Policy: No visits or phone calls. Your child has just 5 days to settle in & enjoy Camp life. If you have concerns or need to talk during Camp, please contact us.

  • Please DO NOT pack food to send with your camper, we will have plenty! Food at camp invites pests to your camper’s bunk.

Homesickness: Camp can be a huge growth experience for campers. While they may experience some discomfort being away from their home turf at first, we will be right there to support and nourish them through it. There will be no calls home — consider no news to be good news!


For some parents, YOU may feel more pangs than your child does after they head off to Penikese. Giving your camper the tremendous gift to spread their wings can be an even a bigger step for parents. Trust that your child is being extremely well taken care of and cared for. Know that we are very well trained in what we are doing. Have faith that they are happy & having a blast.

Standards of Conduct

We ask parents and campers together to please review our behavior expectations before arrival at camp.


At Penikese, we embrace positive attitude.  Campers and staff alike are expected to treat each other with respect and dignity at all times and to help each other achieve the best possible camp experience.  Everyone is responsible for working together as a team while on the island.

Our guiding values at camp are:

  1. Honesty: Being honest and trustworthy is at the core of all relationships and interactions at camp.

  2. Helping: Look for ways to lend a hand or provide support; show initiative; volunteer. Be a giver.

  3. Respect: Show respect for oneself and each other, for camp facilities, for animals and the environment.

  4. Thoughtfulness: Think ahead. Consider and anticipate possibilities and outcomes. Be pro-active.

  5. Responsibility: Set & follow good examples, be accountable. Demonstrate independence.

  6. Kindness: Show caring and compassion to others at camp. Be inclusive & forgiving.

  7. Cooperation: Work together, share, and embrace teamwork. Show enthusiasm.


Should a camper’s behavior severely infringe on others, or our core values, we will redirect the camper to more appropriate behavior.  Inappropriate behavior may result in a camper’s dismissal from camp.

Zero Tolerance Policy

The Penikese Island School abides by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts's Zero Tolerance Policy regarding the use of alcohol or drugs on Penikese Island.


A zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy for a residential summer camp is essential to maintain a safe and healthy environment for all campers and staff.  Cigarettes (including electronic smoking devices) are included in the list of prohibited substances.


The use, possession, and distribution of such substances is strictly prohibited during Camp.  Any camper found using, possessing, or distributing drugs or alcohol will be immediately dismissed from Camp and removed from the Island.  Parents/guardians of campers who violate the drug and alcohol policy will be contacted immediately and required to pick up their child from Camp.

Penikese Science + Nature camp must comply with regulations of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and be licensed by the local board of health.


Rachel Carson

“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.”

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