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.

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