Like any number of American rites of passage, kids’ summer camps aren’t quite what they used to be. They’ve become much more. Traditionally places for kids to have fun while learning such useful outdoorsy skills as dock-diving (splash), study of poisonous weeds (scratch) and personal mosquito control (slap), today’s summer camps offer many more, shall we say, current options. But bluntly, if you can think of a challenging, educational kids’ activity, there’s probably a camp to teach it.
Sue Godes, a former high school and collegiate cheerleader, founded Golden Valley-based Planet Spirit cheerleading camps in 1996 after working with National Cheerleaders Association in Dallas. One-, two- and three-day camps are offered between Memorial Day and Labor Day. “Camps are customized depending on what the kids in each group are looking for,” Godes says. For kids ages 5 to 18, the camps in Golden Valley cover basic cheers and progress to more advanced dance, tumbling and “stunting” skills. Instructors are all former collegiate cheerleaders. Of note: Some Planet Spirit students compete in national and international competitions.
Make a robot.
At the LEGO We Do Robotics camps, elementary students use Legos, Netbook computers, small electrical motors and other parts to build daily projects (think: a lion equipped with a motion sensor that triggers a roar). In the process, they “investigate basic engineering concepts, using simple machines, pulleys, axles and gears,” says Chet Gunhus, co-founder along with his wife Lisa Gunhus of the Twin Cities-based Youth Enrichment League, which developed the course curriculum. The 5-day, three-hour long camps, offered at Kimberly Lane Elementary School in June and July, are designed for students entering second through fifth grades.
Draw and paint.
Abrakadoodle is a national, arts-education program offering art classes, art camps and art parties for kids age 20 months to 12 years old. Shay Hata, who owns the Twin Cities Abrakadoodle franchise, has been offering it in Plymouth through the parks and recreation department for about seven years. To accommodate varying family schedules, each camp offers several options including four-day, two-day, full-day and half-day programs. Professional artists/art teachers teach the classes, which are offered weekly at schools and other community locations from the end of May through August.
Pet care “unleashed.”
For about 30 years, the Animal Humane Society has been offering its “Unleashed” program, week-long summer day-camps to teach kids about animals, pet care and being a responsible owner. The camps, designed for kids entering grades three through 12, usually begin in mid-June and continue through August, according to Tammy Noack, the society’s education program manager. Along with pet care, kids learn about “current issues related to animals, such as animal cruelty and dog-fighting, and they learn about the costs of owning an animal and the impact on the community,” she says.
Act, sing or dance.
Hopkins-based Stages Theatre Company offers summer theater workshops for ages 4–17 at Hopkins Center for the Arts and at the FAIR School in Crystal. The week-long, half- and full-day workshops culminate with participants sharing the skills they have learned for invited family and friends. Depending on the age group, kids act-out dramatic scenes, sing musical-theater scores, dance or retell stories as a group.
Rock the garage.
Plymouth-based Virtuosos Music Academy’s Garage Band Camp pays homage to the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll (or much of it, anyway)—the garage. Offering a one- or three-week Rock Band summer program for “garage bands” made up of kids ages 8 to 18, VMA bands are organized based on skill-level, age and personality, along with the right combination of instruments for each band. Participants in all of VMA’s camps stage a live concert at the end of the session, according to Angela Jaskowiak, a former flute and piano teacher who founded VMA in 2005. For aspiring middle school- and high school-age songwriters, VMA also offers Camp Soundcraft, a week-long session held in August with an optional second week.
Hopkins-based Mis Amigos Spanish Immersion provides one-week summer camps giving kids from 33 months to fourth grade-age a full “immersion” in the language and culture of Latin America. Spanish culture is introduced through music, food, dance, crafts, games and stories. Students explore each Latin American country through various themes, such as Pirates, Rainforest or Cooking, all in Spanish, owner Dawn Uribe says. Both half- and full-day camps are offered.