Service can be simple, powerful and fun.
Imagine helping teach a six-year-old to read. That’s simple. And powerful. When you see these young students, when you feel their energy, when you get caught up in their enthusiasm, well, that’s a ton of fun, too. Our Reading & Recreation summer camp is free to local schoolchildren, is led by a reading specialist and gives you the chance to make a powerful difference in a child’s life.
Picture yourself in a lush green field, patiently harvesting organic vegetables for a local food bank. Simple (can you pick beans?). Powerful (fresh food at a food bank!). Fun (outside, with your Overland leaders and your fellow group members—chatting, laughing and telling stories).
For a fun change of pace, we’ll also get the chance to hike, raft and camp in the Berkshires. A way to enjoy the natural beauty around us, a time to enjoy our group.
Service can be a gift. A gift to those you serve, a gift to yourself. Spending two weeks in the summer in a beautiful place with like-minded peers and two terrific Overland leaders is an ideal way to look beyond yourself and to give to others. And in the process to get so much in return.
This was Ella's first ‘sleepaway’ camp experience, and her leaders did a great job of creating a home away from home experience. The service work was meaningful, and outdoor activities were well planned.
- Jackie Kloss, Radnor, Pennsylvania
Service, adventure, and friendship in the beautiful Berkshires of Massachusetts.
Day 1: Trip Start
Once everyone has arrived, we’ll go for a short hike, settle into our dorm rooms and start preparing for two weeks of service in the Berkshires. In the evening, we will meet with a local elementary school teacher who will talk to us about our upcoming volunteer project—the Reading & Recreation Summer Program for elementary school students.
Days 2-6: Reading & Recreation Summer Program & Agricultural Engagement
We’ll dive into our first day of community service work, running Overland’s Reading & Recreation Summer Program. This program offers local first, second and third graders the opportunity to receive one-on-one reading instruction, attention and care from Overland’s staff of professional teachers, leaders and student volunteers. Our goal is to improve reading skills and boost self-confidence in a fun, supportive setting. We’ll be paired with the same reading buddies for the duration of the program, and each morning we’ll walk to the local elementary school to meet up with them. Over the next two weeks, we’ll learn and play with our buddies, serving as a reading tutor, counselor, role model and friend.
In the afternoons, we’ll devote half of our time to a community-sponsored farm dedicated to organic crop production. In addition to producing year-round fruits and vegetables for 175 local families, the farm also provides food for a local organization that serves free lunches in the nearby town of North Adams. We’ll volunteer on the farm, learning about sustainable agriculture as we contribute to this important community effort. Other afternoons we will volunteer at a food pantry, where we’ll help stock food and deliver meals for those in need. We will go on short, local hikes and swim in nearby swimming holes.
Days 7 & 8: Hike, Raft & Camp in the Berkshires
We’ll spend our weekend outdoors hiking Mount Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts, and camping at a nearby state forest. We’ll raft the Dryway, an exciting section of the Deerfield River, with professional guides. Our time outside will give us a chance to grow in and explore the beautiful Berkshire mountains.
Days 9-12: Reading & Recreation Summer Program & Land Preservation
Returning for our final week of Reading & Recreation, we’ll spend each morning working with our reading buddies and helping them improve their reading skills. On Thursday, we’ll celebrate with a trip to a local swimming hole, a cookout and an awards ceremony for the students.
In the afternoons, we’ll partner with local non-profits and devote our time to preserving the land and community. We’ll spend several hours outdoors each afternoon working to improve the natural environment through tasks like invasive plant removal, trail work and land management.
Day 13: Trip End
As a group, we’ll enjoy a final dinner and celebrate two weeks of service, accomplishment and friendship before saying our goodbyes.
11 nights in a dormitory on the Williams College campus.
1 night of frontcountry camping with access to flush toilets and showers. Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
We travel light at Overland.
- Medium-Sized Duffel Bag or Backpack
3,000-5,000 cubic inch (50-80 liters) duffel bag or backpack.
- Navy Overland T-Shirt (1)
We will send every student an Overland T-shirt prior to the trip. Please wear this T-shirt to trip start.
- T-Shirt (5)
- Lightweight Long-Sleeve T-Shirt (1)
- Synthetic Shorts (2)
- Pants (1)
Suitable for day hikes, travel or walks through towns and cities.
- Work Pants (1)
Durable and suitable for trail work.
- Underwear (7)
- Athletic Socks (5)
- Hat with Visor (1)
- Swimsuit (1)
- Pajamas (optional)
Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of pajamas.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
- Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material (e.g., Gore-Tex, or similar) is required. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Day Pack
Basic two-shoulder backpack large enough to hold your lunch, two water bottles, snacks, extra layers and rain jacket. Use your day pack as a carry-on for your flight and for daily activities or hikes. A standard school backpack is usually fine (no satchels or shoulder bags).
- Sleeping Bag
Any type of sleeping bag is acceptable.
- Flashlight or Headlamp
- 1-Liter Water Bottle
Comfortable shoes with good traction.
- Water Shoes
Closed-toed sport sandals, water shoes or old sneakers to wear on the water. Sandals must have a heel strap for activities such as kayaking, rafting or canoeing (flip flops and Crocs are not acceptable).
- Extra Long Twin Linens
One to two sets of linens. A pillow, mattress pad and blanket are provided.
- Small Bath Towel
- Beach Towel
- Travel Size Toiletries
- Leather Work Gloves
Sturdy gloves to wear during volunteer work.
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera.
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- Photo Identification
If you are not flying: Overland does not require photo identification. If you are flying within the U.S.: The TSA website has two relevant pieces of information. (1) “TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States.” This language indicates that TSA staff can insist that an under-18 year old who does not have a companion (we interpret this as a companion who is 18 or over traveling with them—not just checking them in) must have TSA-compliant identification. Our experience is that this requirement is inconsistently enforced but, since it might be enforced, we recommend that all Overland students who are flying to/from their trip have TSA-compliant identification. (2) “Contact the airline for questions regarding specific ID requirements for travelers under 18.” This is always smart to do as airline policies vary widely and change frequently.
- Spending Money & Miscellaneous Expenses
Each student should bring a debit card, an ATM card or a prepaid Visa card to cover spending money and miscellaneous expenses. Spending Money: While all meals and activities are included in the trip fee, we recommend $25/week for spending money (for example: for souvenirs or an occasional drink or snack beyond what is provided to the group as a whole). Miscellaneous Expenses: Most Overland students will incur some expenses while traveling (for example: an equipment repair or baggage fees at trip end). Please add $100 to the debit/ATM/Visa card (in addition to spending money), to cover these expenses.
Things to know
- We travel light at Overland; please only bring the items on this list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring your smart phone (or any other electronics).
Please visit the FAQ tab for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- Be sure to bring comfortable clothes that can get dirty and worn while volunteering.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
Please schedule expensive items—phones, cameras, bicycles, etc.—on your homeowners insurance policy.
Questions? Call us: 413.458.9672.
- What is the weather like on Service & Hiking New England?
You can expect typical summery weather with lots of sunshine, some rain, warm days and cool nights.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child’s trip?
Your child will fly to and from Albany International Airport (ALB). We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a trip. If your child is not flying to the start of the trip, he or she should be dropped off and picked up in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for their interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific trip and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland's admissions process.
When we receive your application, if your first choice is available, we will: (1) call you to acknowledge our receipt of your application, (2) send you an email with a link to our Admissions Review Forms, and (3) charge a deposit of $795 to your credit card to hold your place in the trip pending a favorable admissions review. If your first choice is not available, we will call you to discuss your second choice, third choice or other options. For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers. Your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency. If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send an expensive smartphone. Instead, an inexpensive prepaid cell phone will do. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child. To that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer. Outside of office hours, our answering service provides emergency coverage. Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or other medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
- Can my child get credit for service hours?
You should check with your child’s school about whether or not Overland’s service hours meet their requirements. The approximate number of hours of service are listed in the sidebar. We will provide your child with proof of participation after completion of his or her service work.
- Can I send mail to my child during a trip?
Getting a letter, card or postcard while on an Overland trip is always exciting. Please keep in mind that sending mail to your child on an Overland trip is different than sending mail to a traditional camp because your child will be on the move. Our experience has been that mail often does not arrive on time, and, sometimes, even when it does, post offices, campgrounds and other mail stops do not reliably deliver mail to our groups. For these reasons:
1. Please do not send anything valuable – please send letters, cards or postcards only. If mail is late, lost or misdirected, Overland’s leaders and staff are not able to return to the post office (or other mail stop) to collect it.
2. Please use the US Postal Service first-class mail only; do not use UPS, FedEx or DHL (many of our mail stops accept US Postal Service mail only).
3. Please do not send overnight letters: many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are then sent back. For this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery.
4. Please allow one week for postal delivery to U.S. mail stops.
5. Please allow two weeks for postal delivery to international mail stops.
Volunteer in local communities and hike, raft and explore the Berkshires.
Students going on Service & Hiking New England should prepare for:
- Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
- Day hikes to viewpoints and mountaintops
- A weekend hiking, rafting and camping trip
- 9 days of volunteer service for an average of 4 hours each day
- A fun, supportive and wholesome Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for the Hiking
On Service & Hiking New England, you should be prepared for short afternoon hikes and a full-day hike to the summit of Mount Greylock, the highest peak in the state of Massachusetts (3,491 feet). For the Mount Greylock hike, you will hike on a well-established trails through the forest. The terrain can be challenging, steep and rocky, but you will take plenty of breaks as a group throughout the hike. In the month before your trip, you should break-in your hiking boots (wear them a lot!) and complete the pre-trip training (see below). Once on your trip, you'll find that enthusiasm and a positive attitude will help to make the trip a success for you... and for everyone in your group.
- 4 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: take three 90-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 1 week before your trip: take three 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
Preparing for Service
Trips involving service work require a positive attitude and willingness to work hard as a volunteer. You should arrive eager to participate in a variety of service projects. In the mornings, you will mentor students in the Reading & Recreation Program. In the afternoons, you will work at a local food pantry or help out at a sustainable farm. The projects your group work on will depend upon the availability of service opportunities and the needs of the local community.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of your trip mates and your leaders. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland trip.