As summer approaches, the question is heard all over the region: What are we going to do with the kids when school ends? Traditional summer camps are always an option; however, this region is rife with a host of unusual specialty camps offering programs that range from archeology to exploring local zoos.
Howard County Recreation and Parks’ Summer Camp Guide lists more than 100 camps and its free Camp Fair at Centennial Park on May 5 can help families coordinate their summer schedules.
“Howard County Recreation and Parks offers tons of activities in many genres,” said Adam Wienckowski, manager of Recreation Services, “and we try to hold different camp sessions in different locations throughout the county.”
The “Creative Magic Camp with Benjamin Corey” is one of the more unusual offerings. Professional magician Benjamin Corey Feinblum helps children explore their creativity with indoor activities and outdoor games while teaching them how to present tricks like a real professional prestidigitator. Campers learn how to make things disappear and reappear, and how to be funny while doing it.
“We offer a couple of different magic camps and our Circus Stars camp,” said Wienckowski. “Kids learn how to impress their family and friends. … It appeals to kids with an interest in video games, Harry Potter, and things like that.”
Ready for Prime Time
The Drama Learning Center focuses on a different performance genre, providing opportunities for children from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to learn drama skills, perform on a musical stage and work as a theatrical team. The DLC’s “Musical Theater Bootcamp” and two “TV Stars” programs enable campers to gain knowledge of drama skills, stage directions, improvisation, pantomime, depicting emotion and character in preparation for a final performance.
“We have a wide variety of students with lots of interests,” said Stephanie Williams, DLC’s owner and artistic director. “Kids come to us with a wide variety of motivations, from self-expression and building confidence to serious interest in a television career.”
The first “TV Stars” program emphasizes reality television and commercials, while the second section centers on situation comedies and music videos. DLC submits the campers’ finished products to local television stations for potential broadcast.
“The kids write their own skits and perform them in front of a videographer who then edits the material,” said Williams. “Kids love doing music videos, singing the songs that they see on television.”
Though largely an indoor camp, the kids get outside for various recreational activities and take supervised walking field trips to shoot segments “on location.” All campers receive a DVD of their work.
Unique Camps From
A to Z
Kids on Campus hosts summer enrichment education programs on the Howard Community College campus for children ages 7 to 17. The eclectic course catalog offers programs such as making computer game applications, “Pyramids, Plato and Plagues,” fencing basics, and “So You Want to Be President?”
In its 26th year, Kids on Campus has been top rated among similar U.S. programs by the Learning Resources Network. Along with its regular roster, 20 new programs debut this summer, including a “Rookie Inventor” camp.
“We created it thanks to a teacher involved in the program,” said Kids on Campus’s Sara Baum. “It is the elementary school version of the “Young Inventor” program that is meant for middle school. The Young Inventor has a strong business element. Campers write business plans and learn about patenting. The elementary school program has a focus on recyclables.
Both programs involve “… some art, some science,” as campers use their creativity to design and make an invention. They brainstorm with other campers, survey people’s needs, or focus on everyday things and how they might be altered or improved to make life better. Campers create a product, develop a commercial advertisement, and share the product and commercial at an Invention Convention. Kids also learn how inventions and inventors have played an important role in American history, and how people have benefited from their products.
“The kids take a hypothesis and work on it,” explained Baum. “They bring it as close to life as they can. Something that they think will be useful. The camp gives kids a chance to break out of template thinking; try to go outside the lines. … It also allows kids to go for broke. Maybe they will come up with something that will work.”
Look Out, Steven Speilberg
Annapolis-based Filmsters Academy offers another unique career-oriented summer camp program. Founded in 2002 by award-winning filmmakers Patti White and Lee Anderson, Filmsters offers kids a chance to learn and practice the craft of filmmaking. Beginning, intermediate and advanced classes enable participants to progress from the basics to the finer points of making short films.
At each level, students pitch, write, direct, shoot and edit films. “We inspire them,” said White. “They fall in love with filmmaking. … We have an 85% return rate of students.”
“It’s a very intensive, hands-on program,” added Anderson. “The kids are very involved. It’s very “out of the box.” We bring in a series of teaching teams — special teams that cover each part of filmmaking.”
“On day one, students have to pitch a film idea before lunch,” explained White. “That’s the beginning of the structure. Then they go through all of the aspects of making the film — writing, the technology, acting, lighting, set design, the artistic side. On Friday night, we are showing their movie.”
For the Love of the Horse
For some kids, the best way to spend the summer is on horseback, and for them, the Columbia Horse Center offers its Horsemanship Summer Camp. “We are for kids who have fallen in love with horses,” said owner Sue Wisler.
Along with twice-daily riding, campers enjoy hands-on-workshops, a mock horse show, trail rides, games on horseback, drill teams, and learning about the history of and care of horses. The Horsemanship camp is aimed at children ages 8 to 15 who love horses and want to learn about them, while a “Pony Pal” version is designed for younger children, ages 5 to 7.
“It’s not just the riding,” explained Wisler. “It’s the interaction with the horses. It’s also the grooming, tack, breeds, disciplines, medical and feeding. Equally important are the friendships that the campers form. By the end of the session, the kids are bonding on their special interest.”
“We are able to provide a friendly, safe atmosphere,” she continued. “And, we are affordable for the average person, for kids who normally wouldn’t be able to afford to ride.”