Beyond arts and crafts at Madison area summer camps

Caving, Flying, Cooking, Acting

Anyone who's ever been to camp, join in: "Flea!" (Flea.) "Flea fly!" (Flea fly) "Flea, fly, flow!" (Flea, fly, flow.)

It's the song that makes no sense, yet year after year, summer upon summer, happy campers sit 'round the fire and repeat the infectious refrain. In the name of spirit, humans participate in a lot of seemingly bizarre behavior, and at summer camp it can be one strange task after the next.

The odds of actually being required to tread water for 11 minutes in a full jacket-and-pants getup (anyone else attend Camp Phantom Lake?) or start a fire with two twigs these days are slim. But the skills and camaraderie gained at camp last a lifetime. Wisconsin is a revered destination for its outdoor camps, offering that true overnight-in-a-cabin experience. But camp is more than just bunk beds.

Madison Children's Museum Summer Day Camps
100 State St., Madison
madisonchildrensmuseum.org
608-256-6445
Grades K-2

Half-day, Mon.-Thurs. sessions between June 22 and Aug. 27; $70 per session for museum members, $80 for non-members; "Lunch Bunch" supervision (meal not included), $20 per week

Thrill factor: Mellow to adventurous

Innovative, weeklong intensive sessions introduce kids to new experiences ranging from trekking to Madison's cultural destinations (including the UW Space Place and MMoCA) to learning to cook with a behind-the-scenes restaurant tour. "We take advantage of the plentitude of Capitol Square resources to make our sessions unique and appeal to a wide range of kids' interests," says Jennifer Collins of the Madison Children's Museum.

If you have a mini M.C. Escher on your hands, sign her up for "Art & Science Fusion," which "explores the intersections of science and art," experimenting with color and perspective at an elementary level. A little Ansel Adams? "Nature Photography" arms kids with disposable cameras. Or have the kids delve into the world of Greece while donning togas or invent the world's next great thingamajig in "Inventor's Workshop."

Cave of the Mounds Get Out! Mini Camps
2975 Cave of the Mounds Rd., Blue Mounds
caveofthemounds.com
608-437-3038
Ages 5-12

Morning and afternoon sessions from June 17 to Aug. 28; $20 per session; "Munch Bunch" meal and supervision, $5 extra

Thrill factor: Adrenalin trickle to adrenalin rush

If there's only one vocabulary word your child learns over summer, let it be "spelunking." The act of exploring caves, spelunking combines the essentials of childhood: poking around, adventure, exhaustive use of gross motor skills, intriguing locales and, of course, rocks.

Cave of the Mounds is an easy, scenic 20-minute drive from the west side of Madison. Instructors guide your "Rock Hound," "Fossil Fanatic," "Cave Critter" or "Eco Artist" throughout this natural playground, all the while teaching about cave formations and geological curiosities.

Kimberly Anderson, education coordinator at Cave of the Mounds, says the camps address the lack of outdoor physical activity in today's young population: "The cave is a natural draw - we don't have technology here! - and it gets kids jazzed up about getting outside."

Anderson suggests parents take advantage of camp time to tour the Driftless Area and visit attractions such as Little Norway and House on the Rock. Or, when camp's over, why not check out the cave yourself with the fresh knowledge of your own miniature tour guide?

Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) Young Eagles and Air Academy Flight Camps
3000 Poberezny Rd., Oshkosh
youngeagles.org
888-322-3229
Ages 12-18

Weeklong sessions from June 15 to Aug. 8; $675-$1,075

Thrill factor: White knuckle

"You will, weather permitting, get to ride in an aircraft, and possibly even a helicopter," says Mary McKeown, camp coordinator of the Air Academy Camps in Oshkosh, Wis., the self-proclaimed "Center of the Aviation Universe." For kids who are attracted to adventure, who love high altitudes and who always ask "Can we meet the pilot?" when you fly, this is the ticket.

Age-appropriate instruction covers the fundamentals of aeronautics. Sixth-graders learn to build a balsa glider; high school seniors learn to weld. Everything is hands-on. And with a beautiful, modern lodge overlooking Pioneer Airport, campers are fully immersed in aviation. "These are kids who are possibly looking at careers in this field and have an interest that others don't seem to share," says McKeown. "Here they get involved and make friends who are just as excited about flying as they are."

For the stage-struck

If your wee one is more likely to belt out "I've Got Rhythm" than belt a centerfield triple, then theater camp is a great summertime activity. While Madison plays host to drama day camps at Children's Theater of Madison and MadCAP School of the Arts, Harand Camp of the Theatre Arts presents an out-of-town option for those itching for a sleep-away experience.

Sulie & Pearl Harand Camp of the Theatre Arts
Carthage College, 2001 Alford Park Dr., Kenosha
harandcamp.com
847-864-1500
Ages 8-17

Three- and six-week sessions from June 21 to Aug. 2; one-week session for 7-10-year-olds

$885-$4,925 depending on session

Children's Theater of Madison Summer Drama School
Fredric March Play Circle, Wisconsin Union Theater, 800 Langdon St., Madison
ctmtheater.org
608-255-2080
Ages 9-18

Two- and three-week sessions from June 22 to Aug. 15; one-week session for 7- to 10-year-olds

$250-$600; "Summer Studio" for 5- to 8-year-olds, $160

MadCAP Summer School of the Arts
MadCAP Studio, 214 N. Henry St., Suite 203
madcap.org
608-251-1879
Grades K-12

Two-week sessions from June 15 to July 31;

$240-$680

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