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Best Minnesota Summer Camps and Enrichment Programs: A Guide for All Ages

The summer camp experience creates memories that last a lifetime. For some, feelings of nostalgia surface when they break out the sleeping bag and smell campfire smoke in the air; for others it’s an inside joke shared with an old camp friend or the memory

Best Minnesota Summer Camps and Enrichment Programs: A Guide for All Ages

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“Camp provides children with a community of caring adults, who nurture experiential education that results in self-respect and appreciation for human value,” according to the American Camp Association. “All of the outcomes — self-identity, self-worth, self-esteem, leadership, and self-respect — build personal competencies. These personal competencies are reflected in the four “C’s” of the camp community: compassion, contribution, commitment, and character.”

Camps help children grow by providing a supervised, positive environment. They can help broaden a child’s social skills (kids meet all kinds of different people in a camp setting) and, when the camp involves the great outdoors, can heighten a child’s awareness of the relationship between people and nature.

YMCA Day Camps promote a healthy spirit, mind, and body in a safe and exciting environment. All camp programs emphasize the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and faith with camp staff and fellow participants.

For Mary and Ben Brucciani, parents of Eva (10), Leo (8), and Lou (6), Camp Streefland in Lakeville has been their go-to summer camp for the past four years. “The bus picks the kids up and drops them off at a school just down the road from us,” Mary says. “It couldn’t get more convenient!”

Mary and Ben work full-time and needed a day camp that would work for all three kids, who have three very different interests, so Eva went to horse camp, Leo went to a general day camp, and Lou went to fishing camp. They all loved the experience. “The YMCA was a great option to have them all at the same day camp at the same time,” says Mary.

The YMCA offers a number of metro area camps for kids ages 4 to 14, with a typical camp day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (before and after care is available from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) Traditional camp activities such as arts and crafts, swimming, canoeing, archery, games, hiking, outdoor cooking, songs, and skits are offered at all Day Camp locations. Bus stops are available at most locations each day.

Specialty Camps, available for kids ranging from 6-14, are available based on each site of location.

For those who desire a family experience, the “Summer Family Escape” and “Grandparent/Grandchild Intergenerational Road Scholar Camp” offered at the Audubon Center of the North Woods (ACNW) on 535 acres in Sandstone (about 70 miles from Duluth) is the perfect fit. Parents and kids ditch the video games, TVs, and computers, and reconnect with Mother Nature the old-fashioned way, in the Great Outdoors. “It’s close enough to home that you can save travel time and money, yet far enough away to feel like an adventure,” explains Laurie Fenner, marketing coordinator with ACNW.

Today’s camp experience—whether indoors or outdoors—often includes a specialized focus on music, dance, sports, community service, special needs programs, academic enrichment, or visual and performing arts.

At The Art Academy, students can refine their artistic skills this summer by taking a class. “I have yet to meet a kid who isn’t talented,” says Jim Robinson, founder of The Art Academy. “Every child can draw and paint well if they’re trained how to do it. I’m a fanatic about that.”  

The Art Academy teachers work to encourage a positive atmosphere where students—children and adults— can relax and enjoy learning in a fun, noncompetitive atmosphere. “Our goal is to improve students’ drawing and painting abilities dramatically in a short period of time. We accomplish this by teaching time-honored techniques in classes with very low student-to-teacher ratios,” Robinson says.

For kids who are interested in music, there are a number of music camps offered in the summer months (MacPhail Center for Music Summer Camps, Sing Minnesota, or McNally Smith, for instance), if they’re interested in computers, there are camps like Tech Camp at Macalester College (video game design, iPhone app development, Flash animation, programming, video editing and more), and for the animal lover, the Minnesota Zoo Camp allows kids ages 2-18 to explore a wide range of subjects involving animals and wildlife conservation.

“Campers explore behind-the-scenes at the Zoo and learn how we take care of our animals,” explains Grant Spickelmier, Minnesota Zoo assistant director of education. “They also learn how people impact wild populations of animals and what specific things they can do to help endangered species around the world. Whether you want your three-year-old to touch a snake for the first time or your high schooler wants to learn about careers in marine biology, we have a Zoo Camp for you.”

Over 10 million American kids go to summer camp every summer, to meet new people, try new things, appreciate nature, learn new skills, and most importantly — have fun.

For a full list of camps, visit the American Camp Association at www.campparents.org or My Summer Camps at www.mysummercamps.com.



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