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Friday, Feb 12, 2016
Summer Camps

Imaginative camps can make learning fun

The two-month gap between school years seems like a wonderful break and a chance to turn away from serious learning to dive into fun. But the time away from learning could do more harm than good for many students, said Paula DaSilva, interim director of USF's Preschool for Creative Learning.

“There is significant evidence showing that students can lose progress during summer, especially in reading and math,” DaSilva said. “But it doesn't have to be an either/or period of time. During the summer, you can enhance skills in those areas by finding fun activities that incorporate the learning.”

There lies the trick: finding fun activities that will keep your child's interest but that put to use skills they've learned, as well as introduce new skills. Basically, keep them having fun while they're learning so they don't realize they're learning, DaSilva said.

“Be creative and make the experience meaningful so there will be a gain of skills in areas of reading and math,” she said. “This will help make the start of their next school year better. They need to be excited about science and technology and problem solving. We need children who can be creative and not just able to recite equations.”

When looking for camps for your child, keep in mind the importance of finding a good match, ones that meet your child's strengths, as well as ones that offer challenges in areas and skills that need reinforcement.

Another tip from DaSilva: Before the end of this school year, ask your student's teacher for suggestions of the types of camps your child might need.

“He or she knows your child academically, so ask, 'What are my child's needs and what should my child work on during the summer' to gain a better sense of direction,” she said.

The following list of camps is literally the tip of the learning iceberg, but offer great options for keeping your student engaged and learning throughout the two-month hiatus.


Aqua Camps at the Florida Aquarium

701 Channelside Drive, Tampa 33602

(813) 273-4015

Online: flaquarium.org

The Florida Aquarium offers AquaCamps for ages 3 to 15, with AquaTots for ages 3 and 4, AquaKids ages 5 and 6, full-day camps for ages 6 and 7 (on location), 8 and 9 (on location), 10 and 11 (travel), 12 and 14 (travel), and a scuba camp for ages 12 to 15. Topics cover a range of ocean science, with travel camps venturing to local estuaries, beaches and springs.

Berkeley Prep Summer Programs

4811 Kelly Road, Tampa 33615

(813) 885-1673

Online: berkeleyprep.org

More than 100 unique activities offered, including sports, languages, and an array of academics to meet your child's diverse interests or singular passion. Camps are for students Pre-K to 12th grade and run from June 3 to July 26. Prices range from $40 for camps to $2,800 for for-credit courses.

Big Cat Summer Camp

12802 Easy St., Tampa 33625

(813) 323-3265

Online: bigcatrescue.org/kids-camp

Two camps (ages 8 to 11 and 12 to 15) let your child learn about the animals' lives in the wild and in captivity, the challenges they face, as well as diet preparation, scavenger hunts, keeper demonstrations of feedings and behavioral training with the cats at this non-contact facility.

Camp sessions run June 17 to 21 through Aug. 5 to 9.

Busch Gardens Adventure Camp

10165 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa 33612

(877) 248-2267

Online: buschgardens.com

From thrilling roller coaster rides to hands-on help with animals, summer camp at our local Busch Gardens continues to provide students a summer full of new experiences. Five levels of day camps cover grades K-12, and there are also resident camps, sleepover camps, and special programs available. Prices and schedules vary with each camp or program.

Camp IDS

Corbett Preparatory School of IDS

12015 Orange Grove Drive, Tampa 33618

(813) 961-3087

Online: idsyes.com/camp-ids

Several dozen camp options await your student, including sports, visual arts, performing arts, academics, recreation, language and field trips. Camps run from June 17 to Aug. 2 and are for students PreK3 through 12th grade. There is free extended care in the mornings from 7:15 to 8:15 a.m. School also host the Summer Institute for the Gifted (through the National Society for the Gifted and Talented) July 8 to 26 in which students ages 4 to 12 choose four courses. SIG is in the Corbett Prep middle school facility with state-of-the-art classrooms and equipment.

Brochures, scholarship information, and materials about the program are available by calling SIG at (866) 303-4744, ext. 5159.

Carrollwood Cultural Center Summer Camp

4537 Lowell Road, Tampa 33618

(813) 269-1310

Online: carrollwoodcenter.org

The Carrollwood Cultural Center offers hands-on and creative activities through its summer camp, which run from June 10 to Aug. 16. Camps run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with early morning care starting at 7:30 a.m. and afternoon care going until 5:30 p.m.

City of Tampa Parks and Recreation

Online: tampagov.net/dept_parks_and_recreation

There are multiple camps across the city at nearly two dozen community/activity centers.

Lowry Park Zoo School

1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa 33604

(813) 935-8552, ext. 268

Online: www.lowryparkzoo.com

The weekly camps are for grades K-8 and run June 10-14 through Aug. 12-16. Depending on grade level, Zoo School camps include zoo hikes, classroom lessons, animal encounters, arts and crafts projects, animal shows and feedings, zookeeper talks, and educational videos.

Camps run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with before and after care available.

MOSI Summer Science Camp

4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa

(813) 987-6000 or 1-800-995-6674

Online: campfun.org

MOSI's Summer Science Camp brings science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) alive through hands-on experiments and building projects. From half-day to all day, there are a variety of camps for budding scientists, artists, engineers and computer game designers. Camps are for students ages 2 through high school and run from June 10 to Aug. 16.

Patel Conservatory Summer Camp

David A. Straz Jr. Center Performing Arts Center

1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa 33602

(813) 222-1002

Online: patelconservatory.org

Dozens of camps in music, theater, dance, film, on-camera acting and vocal arts fill the summer from June 10 to Aug. 17. Programs are for pre-K to adult; tuition varies. Programs include rock 'n' roll, on-camera acting, summer play, film, musical theater, vocal arts, violin and cello. Limited courses offer hip-hop dance, tap dance, creative drama, and rock school.

Summer Explorations at USF

11811 Bull Run Drive, Tampa 33617

(813) 974-5142

Online: www.coedu.usf.edu/pcl

A summer program for children grades 1 through 4 that focuses on technology with lessons about alternative energy sources (campers create a solar powered pizza oven). The camp also includes physical fun at the USF Recreation Center for swimming and playing, as well as field trips across campus. Camp runs from June 10 to Aug. 15, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day with before and after care available.

Tampa Bay History Center

801 Old Water St., Tampa 33602

(813) 675-8960

Online: tampabayhistorycenter.org

Four week-long camps for children ages 7 to 11: Go Green, American Girls, Build It! and Archeology Adventures. Each camp runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended care available for an additional fee. Cost is $175 per week.

Tampa Museum of Art

120 Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa 33602

(813) 421-8373

Online: tampamuseum.org

Your child will explore a world of art, including classical art traditions and contemporary concepts, and create their own works of art in a variety of art media. Camp includes gallery visits, the museum landscape and layers of art history. Camps run June 17 to Aug. 2, with weeks one and two for children age 6 to 8, weeks three and four for children age 9 to 11, and weeks five and six for children age 12 to 14.

Tampa Theatre Film Camp

Tampa Theatre, 711 Franklin St., Tampa 33602

(813) 274-5510

Online: tampatheatre.org/summer-camp

Students will create live-action and stop-motion animated movies on Mac computers using iMovie and Garage Band software and footage they shoot with digital cameras. Each student will premiere his or her film on Tampa Theatre's big screen and receive a copy on DVD. The cost is $175. Camps run in week long session: June 17 to July 19.

YMCA of Tampa Bay

Many locations throughout Hillsborough County

(813) 224-9622

Online: tampaymca.org

Campers can choose from a range of full-day, half-day and specialty camps, including sports, gymnastics and aquatics. In addition to the fun, your child will learn positive adult role models, other adult relationships, creative activities, positive values and conflict resolution.


Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center

3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs 34688

(727) 865-6255

Online: brookercreekpreserve.org

Short but impressive five-day camp dives into the world of amphibians and reptiles with George Heinrich, a professional herpetologist. Camp features up-close encounters with a variety of animals such as gopher tortoises, frogs, lizards, and snakes, and students learn about amphibian and reptile ecology and conservation. Camp runs from July 29 to Aug. 2 and is for students ages 7 to 11. Cost is $150 (limited to 30 campers, first-come basis).

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve

1101 Country Club Way S., St. Petersburg 33705

(727) 893-7326

Online: http://www.stpeteparksrec.org/boyd-hill-camps.html

Camps for kids with a passion for nature and the outdoors include Jungle Boogie, Herpetology, Wildlife Ecology, Pioneer, Young Naturalist and Nature Adventure. Camps run from June 10 to Aug. 16 for children ages 5 to 12.

City of St. Petersburg Summer Playcamp

Online: http://www.stpeteparksrec.org/playcamp.html

Eleven recreation centers throughout St. Petersburg offer daily camps for children entering first through fifth grades. Camps run from June 10 to Aug. 16. Cost is $650 for 10 weeks.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

249 Windward Passage, Clearwater 33767

(727) 441-1790

Online: seewinter.com

Themes include Crawling Critters, Bird Brains, Fur and Fins, Eco Explorers, Animal Encounter, and Sharks, Rays and Skates. Half-day and full-day camps are for students from kindergarten through 10th grade and run June 3 to Aug. 16.

Great Explorations Children's Museum

1925 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg 33704

(727) 821-8992

Online: greatex.org

Camps stimulate learning and imagination with themes ranging from Nano Science to Kitchen Chemistry, with experiments, exploration, arts and craft projects, movement activities and team projects. New camps this year are for children entering kindergarten (turning 5 by Sept. 1). Camps are for K through 5th grade and run June 10 through Aug. 16.

City of Largo Summer Camps

(727) 518-3125

Online: largocamps.com

The city of Largo offers a variety of programs for preschoolers through teens.


Academy at the Lakes Summer Day Camp

2331 Collier Parkway, Land O'Lakes 34639

(813) 948-7600

Online: academyatthelakes.org

Offers eight one-week sessions (full and half day) from June 10 through Aug. 2 for children ages 3 to 14 (rising 9th graders). Camps feature acting, archery, arts and crafts, baking, basketball, cheerleading, Chinese, dance, design, field trips, football, guitar, math review, model rockets, music, photography, pottery, reading, recreational games, sewing, soccer, tumbling, video production, wild science and writing skills. Camp hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (extended care is available at 7:30 a.m. and until 6 p.m.).

Camp Ramblin Rock

3002 Starkey Blvd, Trinity 34655

(727) 375-0123

Online: ramblinrhodesmusic.com/summercamps

Part of Ramblin Rhodes Music School, Camp Ramblin Rock trains students in a recording studio atmosphere. Across five days your child will learn instrumental parts, vocal scores, stage presence and performance techniques. On Fridays, they perform for family and friends. String Camp is from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. June 10-14 (some experience with violin, viola or cello is required, especially first position). Camp Be-Beat (Drum Camp) is from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 10-14. Rock Opera (a combo of instruments and vocals) is June 17-21. Drama Camp is June 24-28. Rock Camp is July 8-12. A second Rock Opera is from July 22-26. And Glee Club Camp is July 29 to Aug. 2. Cost is $230 per week (additional sibling costs $180). Please pack a lunch.

East Pasco Family YMCA

Many locations throughout Pasco County

37301 Chapel Hill Loop, Zephyrhills 33541

(813) 780-9622

Online: tampaymca.org

Campers can choose from a range of full-day, half-day and specialty camps, including sports, gymnastics and aquatics. In addition to the fun, your child will learn positive adult role models, other adult relationships, creative activities, positive values and conflict resolution.


Polk Museum of Art

800 E. Palmetto St., Lakeland 33801

(863) 688-5423

Online: www.polkmuseumofart.org

Four two-week long sessions give your child time to create with drawing, painting, ceramics and performance and stage craft. Camps run from June 10 to Aug. 2 for children ages 5 through 13.

Sun n Fun Aviation Summer Camp

4175 Medulla Road, Lakeland 33811

(863) 644-2431

Online: sun-n-fun.org

Aviation Summer Campers learn about the parts of an airplane, aerodynamics, basic navigation, weather, pre-flighting and flying aircraft. Flight simulators are used to practice skills and reinforce learning before they fly an airplane with a Flight Safety International flight instructor. For students age 11 and 12, camps run June 17 to 21 or June 24 to 28. For students age 13 and 14, camps run July 8 to 12 or July 15 to 19. And for students age 15 to 18, camps run July 22 to 26 July 29 to Aug. 2. Day camp only costs $300 and residential camp costs $675.

Sun n Fun STEMtastic camp

4175 Medulla Road, Lakeland 33811

(863) 644-2431

Online: sun-n-fun.org

STEMtastic camp for ages 7 to 12 features a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum of rocketry, flight simulation, DVDs and hands-on construction. Camp 1 for ages 7 and 8 runs from June 17 to 21, Camp 2 for ages 9 and 10 runs from July 15 to 19, and Camp 3 for ages 11 and 12 runs from July 29 to Aug. 2. All run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost is $150 per week.

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