BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
In Summer Camp world as well as in School Year world, STEM, the acronym for all technical things (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) has been merged with the arts to become STEAM. Although I haven’t found anything labeled as a STEAM camp, there is hardly an arts camp that doesn’t include a hefty amount of technology, and hardly a STEM program that doesn’t emphasize creativity and “making.” And all of this stuff—from welding metal sculptures to digital imagery to building robots—is the big buzz in summer camps right now, as we reach the culmination of fast-growing organizations dedicated to bringing out the cyberneticist and inventor in the youth of today.
So, just to be contrary, we’re going to start with sports camps. Swimming and other water-based activities are always popular. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) provides a variety of options year-round in the case of the Phillips Aquatic Center, the park system’s only indoor pool, which just happens to be in our own neighborhood. Parent & Tot, Levels 1 through 4 for kids, a Jr. Swim Club, Adult Beginner Classes, and Lifeguard Clinic are all offered. Fee assistance is offered, and for youths 15 and up, a full refund of the Lifeguard Clinic fee is on offer if you sign up to be a lifeguard on completion. Outdoor swimming is offered at North Commons Park, Lake Nokomis and Bde Maka Ska among other locales. Sailing lessons can be taken at Lake Harriet. The MPRB website is rather convoluted and not easy to use; try phoning the Aquatic Center at 612-370-4859 or email email@example.com. Or just drop in: the Phillips Aquatic Center is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, with shorter weekend hours.
For kids ages 6 to 18, Whittier Park offers a week-long basketball camp, Aug. 10 through 15. Registration had not begun yet at the time of writing. Contact the park directly or keep an eye on the website activekids.com (which has a lot of other summer camps too). Twins Baseball Camp is a high-priced but high-class alternative for your kid if they’re into that. In addition to instruction from actual team coaches, the camp offers “30 hours of terrific instruction, four complimentary Twins game tickets, a V.I.P. day at the ballpark, meeting a current Twins player, a full Twins uniform, and the unforgettable friendships and memories.” Start at mlb.com/twins, then go to “Community,” then “Training Camps.” The Twin Cities has a metrowide program called Revolutionary Sports that began in 2001 as a Minneapolis Park-based soccer class, and now spans multiple locations and cities with over 100 coaches in all major sports. You can access their summer camps at pla-it.com/camp. There are also lots of less mainstream recreational choices available through the Minneapolis Parks, such as a three-day skateboard camp at Armatage Park, an archery program at MLK Park, and “Angelina Ballerina” at Northeast Park.
Moving on from sports, there are other “academic” areas besides STEAM that camps can be themed to. A big one nowadays is language immersion camp, which is like language immersion school but compressed into a summer camp. The International Spanish Language Academy (ISLA) in Minnetonka offers three-day camps for grades 1 through 5 in areas such as eco-adventures and, yes, STEAM, plus one camp on animals for kids entering kindergarten —Animalisimo. Check out the ISLA website isla.school.
Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji offer the intensity of 24-hour language immersion with the fun of overnight camping far from the cities—and in 14 different languages (one at a time though!) from Arabic to Swedish. Download a schedule with rates and registration info at concordialanguagevillages.org.
Another interesting possibility is Law Camp. Hamline University offers summer camps in a variety of subjects including Mock Trial Camp: “This weeklong day or overnight camp is for students of all skill levels, ages 14–18, to learn from collegiate mockers, attorneys, judges and more, about teamwork, critical thinking, and presentation skills.” Hamline also offers a Young Writers Workshop camp. Check them out at hamline.edu.
Now for the STEAM camps. The two biggest offerings in terms of high-profile and depth are iD Tech/Alexa Cafe at Macalester and Leonardo’s Basement in the Windom neighborhood. First iD Tech. This is a nationwide STEM camping organization based in California, founded in 1999 by Alexa Ingram-Cauchi and her mother, Kathryn Ingram, now run by Alexa and her brother Pete. iD Tech teams up with technical institutes and universities to provide an ever-growing array of camp experiences for kids ages 7 to 17. Alexa Cafe is a girls-only branch of iD Tech with a mission to boost participation of women in STEM careers. (There are 150 iD Tech locations, but only 15 Alexa Cafe locations, so we’re kind of lucky to have one here!) The tracks offered at Macalester are Coding, Game Development, Robotics and “Creative” (Graphic Design-Digital Media.) Leonardo’s Basement could not be more different from iD Tech if it tried (and I suspect it may be trying). Where iD Tech boasts expensive tools, instructors from Fortune 500 companies and looking good on your resume, Leonardo’s Basement is clearly building for more of an anarcho-utopian future and has a punk, homegrown, homemade esthetic, rather like the Barebones Dumpster Duels. Their focus is on “making” pure and simple. Although they do have 3D printers and welding equipment and CAD software, they also have crazy stuff like IRL video games, paint pendulums, catapult contests, and a chance to make playable games or design fantasy worlds. Go to leonardosbasement.org/summer-schedule/ to download the amazing summer schedule.
In the more pure world of arts and culture and entertainment, let’s remember that the Twin Cities is also blessed with a world-renowned circus school. Circus Juventas is a summer program that’s still going strong after 25 years. Located in Saint Paul, this school for ages 6 to 18 offers an intensive year-long circus course, but summer camps give students a chance to either sample or, if they’re already enrolled, enrich. They offer three types of summer camp options: performance week-long camps, daily sampler camps, and teen high-flying adventure camps. All options provide experience of all genres of the circus arts: aerial, acrobatics, balance, juggling and theater.
Another serious art experience is Clay Camp at the Northern Clay Center in the Seward neighborhood. NCC offers week-long camps for kids 6 to 18 divided into three age cohorts. Classes center on a type of project—animals, pinch pots, goofy mugs, etc. Start your search at northernclaycenter.org.
Most of the arts organizations in town offer summer camps—the Guthrie, MIA, MacPhail Center, Children’s Theater and more. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, MCAD, has some very intriguing offerings for ages 6 to 18. Besides basics like painting, drawing and sculpture, there are modules on book arts, soft sculpture, comic books, “school of rock” (music), stop-motion filmmaking, and drawing raptors from life.
Finally, here are a few unclassifiable camps. There are two ways of offering a little bit of everything at a day camp. One way is the approach of Minnehaha Academy’s Camp Minnehaha, which has a plethora of short modules from which campers can pick and choose. Some interesting offerings include action figures, journaling, a festival of China, and a girls-only spa. The other way is that taken by the University of MN’s Gopher Adventures, where each day of camp has a bit of art, a bit of environmental learning, a bit of vigorous play and a bit of quieter activity. (Check out http://recwell.umn.edu/youth-programs/gopher-adventures.) The Animal Humane Society offers a day camp for kids who love animals. A 5-day, animal-themed day camp for kids entering grades 3 through 10, each camp includes animal-related educational activities, games, crafts, guest speakers and more. Then there’s the Way Cool Cooking School in Eden Prairie which has classes such as Food Show Favorites, Oodles of Noodles, and Cupcake Wars. And if you want your child to experience the real deal—overnight camping with a focus on hiking, wilderness and water, here are a couple of options to consider. First, Camp Tanadoona, a 103-acre adventure camp located in St. Louis Park that teaches leadership development for ages 5-18. Tanadoona is a program of Camp Fire, Inc. And then last but definitely not least, there is Star Lake Wilderness Camp in Pequot Lakes. This is a true old-school, coed wilderness camp. The August camp is a United Methodist camp, led by Methodist pastors, while the June-July camps are secular, but all offer a rich wilderness-based experience and they don’t turn anyone away for inability to pay the full fee.