The Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth

More than a hike in the woods

Summer camps cover a lot of ground, from Shakespeare to stargazing

Back in the 20th century, summer camp options usually boiled down to 4-H, church, Scout or YMCA programs, often on a lake in the woods where activities ranged from swimming and hiking to swimming and hiking. Since then, a proliferation of choices has resulted in summer camps for everything from swimming and hiking to math, foreign languages, computers and performing arts.

It's enough to make any reasonable, responsible parent demand do-overs. You can, however, enjoy vicarious do-overs through your own children, by delivering them to the awesome contemporary camp of their choice and living the experience through the enthusiastic reports they bring home. Among the programs you might hope they pick:

What: Circus Arts Camps.
Who: Ages 7-18, subdivided into tighter age clusters.
Why: Are you kidding? The opportunity to learn low-flying trapeze skills, stilt-walking, juggling, acrobatics, pantomime, clowning and other circus skills, leading up to an actual performance for parents and friends, and you have to ask why? "They'll have tons of fun," says Cycropia Aerial Dance veteran and Mazomanie Movement Arts Center director Marcia Miquelon, "and go home each day worn out from all the active learning." Circus arts also develop focus and concentration, balance and self-esteem, while emphasizing teamwork and cooperation.

Taught by veterans of aerial dance, improvisational theater and physical comedy, these one-week day camps aim to instill a sense of physical competence and movement in three dimensions. A two-week advanced camp, for ages 10 and older with prior experience, introduces even more skills and apparatus (aerial improvisation, the rolling globe, the German wheel) and includes a Circus World Museum visit.
When and Where: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, June 14-18 (ages 7-9), June 21-25 (ages 7 and older), June 28-July 2 (ages 9 and older), and July 5-16 (advanced camp for ages 10 and older with prior experience), all at Mazomanie Movement Arts Center; and July 19-23 (teen camp for ages 12 and older), Goodman Community Center.
How: Registration is $200 for one-week Mazomanie camps, $400 for the two-week advanced camp, and $225 for the one-week Goodman Center session.
For more details, phone 608-795-0014, email or visit their website.

What: Canoe and Kayak Camp.
Who: Students entering grades 6-8.
Why: "It's a way to get outside and learn some new skills," says Nancy Saulsbury, director of Rutabaga Outdoor Programs. Learning how to maneuver canoes and kayaks "opens up places you might not otherwise get to." Indeed, whatever parts of Madison aren't surrounded by water are still within portaging distance of lakes Mendota, Monona or Wingra, which add up to more than 13,000 acres of surface area and almost 40 shoreline miles to explore. Not to mention all the local rivers and creeks like the Yahara and Starkweather. Plus, the best time to learn good paddling skills is while you're young, before you've developed bad ones that need to be corrected. Among its handful of paddling day camps this summer, Rutabaga Outdoor Programs offers this introduction to both canoeing and kayaking, with games, activities and excursions that aim to teach basic strokes and maneuvers. Kids also learn water and weather safety, best practices for sharing the resource with anglers and larger boats, and responsible behavior in sensitive habitats.
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, July 19-23.
Where: Rutabaga.
How: $349 (scholarship applications available), with registration at 608-223-9300; more information at their website.

What: The Total Guitarist.
Who: Guitarists and drummers entering grades 8-12 with at least one year of playing experience.
Why: School of Rock may have been an entertaining movie, but instructive? Not so much. And there's a lot to learn about rock - as well as blues, jazz and classical - guitar. Part of UW-Green Bay's extensive menu of summer arts and science camps, Total Guitarist puts the amp back in camp, bringing young ax-wielders of both the electric and acoustic persuasion together. "This summer we will be adding more of a 'real life' component," notes UW-Green Bay camps and conferences director Mona Christensen, referring to such program elements as how to run rehearsals and how to prepare for gigs and studio sessions. With a curriculum grounded in applied music theory, the syllabus includes everything from recording basics (how to lay down and mix tracks and overdubs) to such stage savvy as how to run a jam, craft and rehearse new songs, and play through professional-grade sound systems. "This year we are adding drummers to the mix," Christensen adds, "so guitarists can work with a rhythm person and bassist to build on some skills they can use when they get back home."
When: June 27-July 1.
Where: UW-Green Bay campus.
How: $495 residential rate includes instruction, room, board, camp T-shirt and transportation to evening activities including concerts and jam sessions. $295 commuter fee includes instruction and T-shirt.
For registration and other details, visit their website, phone 920-465-2775 or email

What: Young Student Summer Program.
Who: Students in grades 4-6.
Why: The Madison-based Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth is a smart choice among summer-camp options, where gifted students can have fun and learn in a setting among their peers. "Kids get a chance to explore something that they can get excited about," says WCATY president Carole Trone. "It's not at all related to grades. It's all about learning for learning's sake." All YSSP campers pursue a fast-paced, weeklong, small-group program that plays to their scholarly strengths and enthusiasm. Options include biology, chemistry, digital art and photography, physics, journalism, Japanese culture and language, Shakespeare, Greek mythology and space exploration. Each afternoon, all campers have recreation time, where activities include Ultimate Frisbee and Capture the Flag. Daytime courses are augmented by evening workshops ranging from ballroom dance to knitting to spoken-word.
When: Aug. 1-7.
Where: Beloit College.
How: $800 for residential campers and $500 for commuters (some financial aid may be available) includes all books, materials, supplies, lab fees, meals for residential students, and lunch and snacks for commuter students. A nonrefundable $60 application fee is due by the May 8 application deadline. Phone 608-890-3260 or email for more information, or visit their website, select "programs" and click on the YSSP link.

Kids critics choice

Presented by Madison Ballet, March 13 (2 & 7:30 pm) & 14 (2 pm), Overture Center's Overture Hall
Madison Ballet revives its lavish production.

St. Patrick's Day Parade
March 14, Capitol Square, 1:30 pm
Whether you're Irish or not, who can pass up a parade?

Peter Rabbit
,i>Presented by Dance Wisconsin, March 21, Waisman Center, 1 & 3 pm
Dance Wisconsin adapts Beatrix Potter tales in this preview performance for the Waisman Center Children's Theatre.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: When mom gets a new roomie

This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition. It was my husband who had originally signed up to chaperone the event, thinking that spending a few days with his 11-year-old daughter and her compatriots would serve as an excellent anthropological experience. But when an unexpected work obligation made it impossible for him to attend, it was me left holding the bag

Mama Madison: Earth Day awareness

It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.

Mama Madison: Parents should know and understand school codes of conduct

I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.

Helping your kids stick with music lessons

Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.

A summer camp quiz for parents

If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.

Mama Madison: Lessons in dining out

I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.

Mama Madison: Natural vs. un-natural parenting

It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.

Mama Madison: Theatrical talent close to home

Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.

Mama Madison: Race to shame

I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.

Hancock Center addresses bullying through body movement

It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.

Mama Madison: Get in the picture

Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.

Mama Madison: Welcome to the Parenting Olympics

Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.

Mama Madison: Facebook's instant nostalgia fix

Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.

Mama Madison: The kindness question

Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.

Toddlers take to tablets

Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.

Mama Madison: Science or study hall?

This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.

Mama Madison: MTV provides a teachable moment

In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.

Mama Madison: Planning for the MLK holiday

In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.

Mama Madison: The long vacation

It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.

Mama Madison: Cheating 101 at Middleton High School

Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.

Emails from Isthmus Parents feature event highlights, story links, site updates, and occasional special offers from trusted sources. Name and email address are required. Thanks!