Finding Summer Camps with Flair
By Jan Pierce
Most of us remember summer camp. It was great: Rustic cabins, swimming in the lake, arts and crafts, songs around a campfire and capture the flag in the evenings. It still sounds good to me.
But times have changed and lots of kids are more excited to plan a summer adventure around performance academies than attend a traditional summer camp.
There are lots of options and while they are not inexpensive, they do offer wonderful opportunities for your kids. They can be week-long overnight experiences, or day camps only.
Here are some of the possibilities. Check your local area for availability.
Dance and Theater Camps
Dance and theater camps will focus every day on training classes and rehearsals with an eye to a final performance at the end of the camp. Theater offerings may include improvisation, comedy, costume and set design, prop-building, sound mixing, filmmaking, musical theater or stage make-up. Many theater camps offer two or three week options to maximize the quality of the final performances. Dance camps may begin their day programs with children as young as two years and offer ballet, tap and jazz, hip-hop, and modern dance courses ranging in difficulty from beginners to advanced courses. Again, a performance at the end of the course of study is usually the highlight of the camp.
For children interested in advancing their musical skills, or for those who just love to sing, there are tons of music camp options. Children may take private lessons from skilled teachers, or learn to sing or play in ensembles. They can study band instruments, orchestra instruments or focus on just piano or violin. There are classes in music theory, sight-reading, songwriting or voice. A wide variety of musical experiences are available from rock and roll to classical. Music camps are great for honing skills or trying something brand new.
Get ready for some fun at circus or clown camps. Kids learn such skills as plate-spinning, balloon-twisting, stilt-walking, scarf juggling or riding a unicycle. Or they can learn to be a clown as they create costumes, learn to apply clown make-up, and learn the gags and slapstick antics of being a clown. Final performances are the norm here as well.
There are lots of opportunities for kids to delve into art and art- related projects in summer art camps. Many of these are local and offer day courses for children aged five and up.
Others are destination camps that integrate art activities with traditional sum- mer camp experiences. Abrakadoodles camps offer process art experiences in which the focus is on what is learned as a piece of art is produced. There may be theme-based art camps as well as a wide variety of art training in such skills as drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics and clay sculpture, or origami.
STEM courses are all the rage today and well they should be in this age of technology. Courses in programming, coding, robotics, modeling/animation, video game design and team problem-solving will be available. Often STEM camps are designed around themes such as Minecraft, Legos or Star Wars and offer group challenges. The camps may be offered by your local children’s museums or science centers. Courses in marine science or biological studies may incorporate laboratory experiments while engineering courses may emphasize inventions. Science, technology, engineering and math—get your kids in on the fun.
Foreign Language Camps
If you aren’t taking a trip out of country this summer, you might want your kids to have the benefit of a language summer camp. They’ll be immersed in the language, cuisine and culture of another country while at camp. Native speakers will lead the activities as kids learn to sing songs, create skits and play games all designed to deepen their experience in a foreign language. Many language camps end with a special performance or celebration highlighting the learning accomplished.
No time for boredom in these summer camps. Everything from backpacking to rock climbing, wilderness treks to survival hikes, scuba diving to whitewater rafting. What’s your pleasure? Take a look at www.adventurecamp.com.
Dude Ranches and Horse Camps
Your child will leave city life behind when attending a summer horse camp. Courses on animal care, roping, riding and vaulting will be given along with extended time to build a relationship with a horse, ride and care for it, and experience some of what it’s like to live on and run a ranch. Leadership, nature-based arts and crafts and swimming might round out the offerings.
We’re familiar with camps to improve skills in basic sports such as baseball, basketball, football and soccer. But there are many other choices. How about gymnastics, archery, water-skiing, horseback riding, tennis, crew, field hockey, volleyball or water polo? This might be an opportunity to try a whole new sporting experience and find a sport to enjoy for life. Check out www.ussportscamps.com.
It’s hard to categorize some of the camping experiences available to kids today. How about Social Skills camp, D.J. camp, Extreme Sports camps, Wizards and Warriors Role Playing camp, or Rock and Roll Camp?
If you’re serious about planning a performance summer camp experience for your kids, do your research early. These camps tend to fill up early and there are specials on the costs if you apply early.
Here are a few websites to help you with your summer camp research:
Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and the author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net