School’s almost out, and with summer comes lots of extra free time for our area youngsters. Discover a few local programs that can help to keep these young minds active, enlightened and prepared for a new year.
With summer right around the corner, parents are thinking about how to keep their children safe, happy and well entertained while school is out of session. One solution is the tried-and-true tradition of summer camp – with a twist.
Today’s camps not only offer traditional outdoor fun, but also go the extra mile to help keep developing minds in tip-top shape for the upcoming school year. And, they expose children to a wide array of experiences they may never find elsewhere. Who knows, a local summer camp program just might help your child to discover a lifelong passion. Here are some of the best programs in our region.
St. Charles Park District
Here you’ll find a number of camp opportunities, including half- and full-day programs for children of all ages. Areas of focus include sports, nature and local travel, as well as specialty programs like robotics.
Erika Young, public relations and marketing manager for the park district, says that camp sessions run from June through August and most are two weeks long.
“You can do something different every day of the week,” says Young. “The programs keep your mind and body moving all summer long.”
The park district strives to offer camp times that work well with family schedules. There are programs for parents who want to send their kids to camp for a week, as well as camps that last just a few hours per day.
The park district’s sports camps include soccer, lacrosse, basketball, softball, baseball, volleyball and flag football.
Special-interest camps include restoration work at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, Adventure Day Camp, All-Day Kindergarten Kamp and Traveling Teen Camp. In the latter, children grades 6 through 9 take field trips to places like Adler Planetarium, Wheeling Water Park and Wrigley Field.
Another camp that stands out is the park district’s “Down on the Farm Camp” at Primrose Farm. There, campers learn to milk cows and make butter, cheese and ice cream, among other things.
Camp sessions are offered Monday through Friday. Learn more at stcparks.org.
Crystal Lake Park District
This park district offers summer camps for children age 3 through 16. There’s Half-Day Camp, Summer After-School Camp, Preschool Camp, Sports Camp, Dance Camp and Pom Pom Camp. Specialized programs such as Gardening Camp are available, too. Gardening Camp teaches children how to plant, weed and harvest their own crops. At the end of the harvest, excess food is donated to Crystal Lake Food Pantry.
There are no membership fees associated with Crystal Lake Park District camps, which are managed by professional camp directors and counselors.
Some great resources for this camp program are the park district’s nature center and nearby lake. There are opportunities for hiking, archery, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and gathering around a campfire.
“As we say to our families, ‘Relax, we’ve got it covered at the Crystal Lake Park District,’” says Jenny Leech, marketing manager. “Our camps are designed to build confidence, independence, responsibility, community and an awareness of nature. Campers will meet new friends and develop social skills. They’ll also learn things like patience and water safety. Camp provides experiences that children may not get anywhere else. Camp is where summer memories are made.”
Some camps start in May. Learn more in the Programs section of crystallakeparks.org.
Huntley Park District
This park district also offers an array of exciting activities for children grades K through 8.
“Huntley Park District offers endless opportunities for your child to have fun and enjoy a memorable camp experience,” says Heather Matteson, youth recreation manager. “Our full-day camp program focuses on adventure, friendship, fun, exploration, discovery, safety and team-building. Huntley Park District strives to provide a quality, exciting and unforgettable experience to all of the campers, each session, all summer long.”
Camps include the Camp Seedlings Preschool Camp, where children sing, play games, learn letters and shapes, and participate in art projects; Camp Play-all-Day; Camp Laugh-A-Lot; Camp Adventure; REC Teen Camp; Backyard Buddies Half Day Camp; and several sports and arts camps.
Specialty camps include Dino Camp, where budding paleontologists make fossils, create a dinosaur mobile and learn about prehistoric creatures.
Many regular camp sessions include swimming at the park district’s Stingray Bay Aquatic Center and access to special events and field trips. Staff members are well-trained, knowledgeable and committed to camper safety and well-being, says Matteson. Camp sessions run for one week and typically involve both indoor and outdoor activities.
“Our goal is to provide fun and safe activities that promote good sportsmanship, creativity, imagination and positive self-esteem through activities and events such as nature exploration, science experiments, swimming, cooking, indoor/outdoor games, on-site entertainment, field trips and more,” says Matteson. “Our creative, experienced and enthusiastic staff – along with access to Stingray Bay Aquatic Park, open space, ball fields, woods, the gymnasium, theater and kitchen facilities – make these camps high-quality and unique.”
Camps begin in June. Learn more at huntleyparks.org.
Would you like to send your children to college this summer?
Check out InZone at Harper College, an enrichment and sports camp open to children ages 8 to 14. Kids participate in activities like rocket launches and robot wars, and take fun and unique courses in a wide range of subjects. In all, there are a whopping 175 options. Kevin Hahn, InZone program coordinator, says the college offers about 70 percent enrichment classes and 30 percent sports-related options.
“Our enrichment classes range from arts and crafts to cooking and drama, and we offer many classes that fit into the STEM spectrum, from hands-on science to robotics and video game development,” says Hahn. “That’s just a small sample of what’s available. We label ourselves as a program with activities for everyone. Students have the opportunity to gain new skills or strengthen existing ones, based on the classes they register for.”
Kids who join InZone can, among many other things, learn how to speak another language, program code in technology classes or act in front of a camera in the film acting camp.
“All classes are taught by professionals,” says Hahn. “Each program is designed around the principals of safety, education and fun. Our professional staff members create an environment designed to encourage exploration and learning. Many of the classes allow students to gain skills in areas not necessarily focused on in school – such as video game development, organic gardening, manufacturing and engineering.”
InZone runs as a 10-week summer camp divided into five two-week sessions. Some students put full days of classes together, but it’s not a requirement; students are encouraged to sign up for whatever piques their interests.
The 2015 InZone summer camp weeks are June 8-19, June 22-30, July 6-17, July 20-31 and Aug. 3-14. Class times vary. There are before- and after-care programs, too. Learn more at harpercollege.edu/inzone.