The staff at Monica Ros School in Ojai thought the children attending day camp this summer would enjoy learning more about outer space.
So they invited a rocket scientist from Vandenberg Air Force Base to come and talk to the children about rocket testing. Not only that, they also asked an aerospace engineer who worked on the Apollo moon project.
The sky's the limit for youngsters at this 50-year-old school nestled among the orange groves and olive trees at the east end of the Ojai Valley.
As far as summer day camps go, Monica Ros' program is about as creative as they come. Although a private nonprofit school for preschoolers through the third grade, the summer program is open to all children.
The cost depends on how much of the program you want. For $75 a week, you get the summer arts program that runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes activities such as the space unit. For another $35 a week, you get an afternoon program of activities such as sculpting, computers or art. For an additional fee, day care is available in the morning and afternoon for working parents.
"There may be other programs that are less expensive, but we're very reasonable for what we do," Alison Tully, the school's summer director, said. "It's not our desire to be elitist. It's always been a tenet of the school to keep the price accessible."
The school was started by Australian-born educator Monica Ros. Now 90, Ros and her late husband were theosophists and followed the teachings of Hindu religious thinker Krishnamurti. They were drawn to Ojai and lived for a time at the Krotona Institute of Theosophy.
"She was a visionary woman, way ahead of her time," Tully said. "She believed kids should have the right beginning, that they are entitled to start with self-esteem and a curriculum in the arts."
They still get both at the school, which is small enough--145 students--for staff members to know everyone on a first-name basis. The learning is non-competitive and homey, with classes taught in small houses on the rural property where wild peacocks occasionally roam.
The school has a waiting list for preschool and kindergarten classes. The summer school program, in operation six years, still has space and has drawn half its enrollment from outside the school.
This year two weeks are devoted to space-related activities. The youngsters will do experiments with former aerospace engineer Larry Heitz, who works part time at the school. They will build a spaceship out of cardboard and experience the feeling of waiting in the cockpit for the countdown. They will also learn about telescopes.
Other weeklong sessions will include oceanography, Chumash Indian history, and animals. During the Fourth of July week, the emphasis will be on patriotism. The children will hear from Ojai City Councilman Joe DeVito, and they will make and ride on a float for Ojai's July 4th parade.
They will hear from a professional diver, a Chumash elder, an insect expert and a snake collector. They will take field trips to the beach, museums, Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara Planetarium and the Humane Society of Ventura County.
They will learn about William Shakespeare from a Shakespearean specialist who teaches it on the children's level. They will dabble in music with Seabury Gould, a staff songwriter and musician who also is musical director for Illusions Theatre--the children's theater--in Ojai. The summer staff reads like a Who's Who in the arts.
"The Ojai Valley is full of good people," Tully said. "We end up having this wonderful network."
For information about Monica Ros School summer program, 783 McNell Road, Ojai, call 646-8184.
OTHER LOCAL DAY CAMPS
* Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District; starting June 17, for children 5 to 12 years. Runs from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cost, $110 per two-week session. Call 482-1996.
* Girl Scouts; one week of day camp, Aug. 5-9, at Camarillo Community Center for kindergarten through sixth grade. Camp runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost, $25, call 564-4848.
* Fillmore Recreation Department; varied summer program for children from kindergarten through the sixth grade, mostly at Sespe School beginning mid-June. Cost will be minimal. Also, free basketball camp June 24-28. Call 524-3701.
* Moorpark; sports day camp at Peach Hill Park includes T-ball, basketball, soccer and other activities; six one-week sessions, weekdays, from July 10 to Aug. 14. For children 4 to 7 years, 9 a.m. to noon. Cost is $35 per week, call 529-6864.
* Ojai Recreation Department; two four-week programs, beginning June 17 and July 22. For children from first grade through sixth grade. Runs 1 to 4:30 p.m. Cost, $40 for four weeks. Call 646-1872.
* Camp Serendipity, Oxnard Recreation Department; 10 one-week sessions, beginning June 24. For children 5 to 12 years. Runs 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Cost, $55 per week. Call 984-4643.