In 1982, a gifted education specialist, Dr. Larry Coleman, and an active parent named Gayle Bush joined together with the dream of providing a summertime supplement to school-year education for gifted children. Their motto was: Learning is fun, & should be on-going. The staff very much believed in this principle, and wanted to keep camp going after Gayle and Larry retired.


In 2001, the camp formally reorganized itself as a non-profit organization under the name “Appalachian Institute for Creative Learning,” hoping to shift focus from students who are gifted to all campers who love to learn. We celebrate the life of the mind, but we’ve seen too many bright, interesting campers who don’t necessarily fit well in a traditional school model to limit ourselves to those who’ve been classified as “gifted.” Instead, we call our campers “motivated learners,” figuring anyone who shows up to take biology, math, or art in July is motivated. What AICL does is to create an environment in which it’s safe to laugh and learn, to risk and fail, to experiment with something outside of one’s competence.

Through outreach and scholarships, we foster a racially and economically diverse community. At AICL, we see everyone as both a learner and a teacher. We encourage social and intellectual interactions that will enable our students to fulfill their personal, professional, and academic potential. Because we build curricula based on the idea that learning is fun and should be on-going, we prepare our students to engage our complex world with insight, empathy, and confidence. When a camper comes to AICL, they have an opportunity to join a community of educators and students who are passionate about learning and creating.


  • "My two daughters have gone to dozens of camps over the years—art camps, nature camps, Girl Scout camps, soccer camps—but there has never been a camp that they have loved as much as AICL. AICL has allowed them to try classes that they never would have tried, and develop new interests. They've made friends that will likely be life-long. The caring and intelligence of the staff is evident in each person that I've encountered. And one thing that I appreciate about AICL is that it makes room for the kids that are a little bit different, a little bit outside the mainstream. Every kid seems to find their place there. AICL is the highlight of my daughters' summer, and it has been for four years now. I highly recommend it."

    -Elizabeth Garzarelli, Principal

  • “My daughter discovered AICL when she was in the seventh grade, when a friend who was affiliated with the camp said he thought my daughter might be a good fit. I had never heard of it, but when we saw the list of crazy workshops we both got excited. Also, I had assumed we would not be able to afford a summer camp, but I found the price to be very reasonable. My daughter is creative and someone who doesn't usually color between the lines, so it seemed like it might be just the place for her.

    That year the camp was only one week. It was the first time my daughter had stayed away from home that long and she didn't know anyone going to camp, so I was concerned she might get homesick. But from the first minute we arrived, she felt at home and I felt my daughter was in good hands. She loved camp and had no problem being away from home. The next year she went for both weeks and has gone every year since then. She has even given up some pretty exciting opportunities because it would have meant missing AICL.  She "graduated" last year and is hoping to be a counselor-in-training this summer.

    The one thing that is difficult about AICL is describing it to others! For my child it was a place where she was encouraged to be her true self, where she learned and saw modeled acceptance and compassion, where she had fun but also learned some skills, and where she met friends she'll have a lifetime. It is really not like any other camp. Where else can you learn how to be a Viking, create your own musical, get tips on arguing, and be chased by zombies - all in the same week?”

    -Liz McGeachy, Mother of a happy camper