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New Palo Alto summer camp offers kids a unique chance to travel the Silk Road

Marco Polo is more than a pool game…

If the only thing your kids know about Marco Polo is the ever-popular pool game, a new camp in Palo Alto is ready to open their eyes.

portrait of famous explorer Marco Polo (courtesy of

portrait of famous explorer Marco Polo (courtesy of

Camp Marco Polo is a new day camp that lets children follow the famous explorer’s journey along the Silk Road through hands on art and theater activities. Based at Escondido Elementary School, Camp Marco Polo is the brain child of Sheila Pfeiffer, a Palo Alto parent and instructional designer with over 20 years of experience creating curricula and learning materials for companies such as McGraw Hill and LeapFrog.

‘Kaleidoscope’ of influences from east and west

Camp Marco Polo founder Sheila Pfeiffer

Camp Marco Polo founder Sheila Pfeiffer

“My family is half Austrian and half Iranian so I grew up with a kaleidoscope of influences from east and west,” Sheila explained. “I wanted to help children explore these influences by traveling the Silk Road and learning about Marco Polo, the man who brought them together.” Sheila first thought of creating a video game, but settled on a summer camp format to encourage interactivity and collaboration. “Kids spend so much time in front of screens and parents are looking for ways to foster creativity through real life stimulation,” she said. “The school year is structured and outcome-focused, and summer camp is the perfect environment to explore ideas that can spark passion and imagination.”


Exploring the cultures of the Silk Road through art and theater

Camp Marco Polo uses visual arts, theater, dance and role playing to help children connect with the cultures and viewpoints of the people who lived along the Silk Road in the 1200s, beginning in China, then traveling to Persia and ending in Europe. Each week visiting artists will come to the camp to teach the children a new artisan technique, such as paper making, textiles, and ceramics. The children will also work with actors to create skits and puppet shows that illustrate folk tales from the cultures along the Silk Road. Every Friday, campers

will stimulate a marketplace and pretend to trade goods by using specific body language, phrases and bartering customs from that particular region.

“We are lucky to have 20 fantastic local artists and actors who will be part of Camp Marco Polo this summer,” Sheila said. “They are excited to work with children in such a creative environment to explore the crafts, music and theater of each region along the Silk Road.”

Enroll now for sessions beginning June 8th

“By exploring art and theater from each country along the Silk Road, children can see our many commonalities and better understand how different cultures view the world.”
Camp Marco Polo runs from 9am-3pm for 10 weeks, beginning on June 8th and ending on August 14th for children from ages 8 through 13. Students can enroll in multiple sessions as each week will look at unique cultural and historical influences. Extended care hours are available and parents can also arrange for transportation through Camp Marco Polo’s website.

Sheila is thrilled to offer Camp Marco Polo for the first time this summer as she has been dreaming about this idea for many years. “We have a very diverse community here in Palo Alto, but children don’t get many chances during the school year to learn how our cultures overlap and influence each other,” Sheila said.

Check out a video about Camp Marco Polo here and see how cool this new camp will be!

About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.

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