As this winter's weirdly springlike weather has been suggesting, summer is not far off. Summer is the time of year when grownups go to work at 7 a.m. so they can take Friday afternoon off. Summer is also the time of year when kids get to go to camp. And yes, one of these options definitely sounds more appealing than the other.
Here are some camps where kids can explore specific interests. Yes, summer may be a few months away, but the time to sign up is now.
IN THE FOOTLIGHTS
American Players Theatre A.C.T. Camp
at Bethel Horizons Camp and Retreat Center, 4651 County Highway ZZ, Dodgeville, 608-935-5885, $875
It was the Bard who wrote, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." And perhaps there is no summer program where this holds more true than American Players Theatre's annual A.C.T. (Acting for Classical Theater) camp. Designed for motivated teens (they accept students 13-17) looking for in-depth drama training, this overnight experience (Aug. 12-17) involves campers in daily workshops led by APT acting company members.
From text work, to movement, to auditioning, students spend the day mastering skills on the beautiful Bethel Horizons grounds in Dodgeville. Then, on four of the evenings, campers will make their way "up the hill" to take in one of APT's 2012 productions in Spring Green. And if your child has always wanted to try his hand at playing one of Shakespeare's famous lovers, the week culminates with participants performing an abridged version of Much Ado About Nothing on APT's flagship stage.
"A lot of our campers have grown up on APT," says camp director Kathy Hiteman, "but others come from out of state. They all agree the chance to work with professional actors every day and then see them perform at night is truly unique."
- Sari Judge
LEARNING THE ROPES
Boulders Climbing Gym
3964 Commercial Ave., Madison, 608-244-8100, $150-$250
Does your little one beg to spend "just one more hour" at the jungle gym? Does she clamber up every rock pile she comes across? Unleash the kids' inner Spidey with a week of summer camp at Boulders Climbing Gym.
With its 8,000 square feet of space, Boulders gives kids lots of room to move. And climbing is a great sport for kids, says Boulders manager Katie Schultz. "It builds confidence, and a lot of them take to it naturally." Moreover, she adds, "It's a chance for them to have fun while exercising."
And it's a terrific mind-body workout. Climbing not only teaches teamwork, balance and agility, but also requires mental concentration and problem solving. (And yes, Mom and Dad, with proper instruction and supervision, it's safe as milk.)
Boulders offers three levels of climbing camps: Base Camp (6-9 years), Summit Camp and Expedition Camp (both 10-17 years). Base Camp, as the name implies, introduces your budding rock hopper to the sport, with an emphasis on basic climbing terms, safety and structured games. Summit Camp teaches more advanced climbing skills, including belaying, rappelling, balance and control. Expedition Camp replicates Summit Camp, but also includes a daylong climbing expedition to Devil's Lake State Park, one of the best climbing areas in the Midwest.
All camps are offered weekly, June 18-Aug. 13, Monday-Friday, either morning or afternoon (except for the one-day trip to Devil's Lake).
- Michana Buchman
Monroe Street Fine Arts Center
2526 Monroe St., Madison, 608-232-1510, $140
When parents think of "arts" with regard to camp, they expect it to be followed by the words "and crafts." But at the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center, summer creativity isn't limited to friendship bracelets, macramé and gimp lanyards. Each year, June through August, this neighborhood arts studio runs a series of weeklong (Monday through Friday) mini-camps dedicated to bringing fine art instruction to area youth. Five- to seven-year-olds might choose to get messy in one of the popular themed classes like "Aliens and Robots" or "All About Animals." And new this summer, future horror film fans can enroll in "Monsters of Art," where they'll use paint, fabric and clay to invent their own scary, or perhaps cuddly, monsters.
Eight- to 10-year-olds itching to dial up their technique can sign up for "Drawing Fundamentals," which provides an introduction to gray scale, still life creation, and figure drawing. And budding Van Gogh or Warhol wannabes might consider taking "Artist Exploration"; it's entirely possible the art world is ready for fresh takes on Starry Night or Campbell's soup cans.
There are classes for the tween set, too. And for those artists who already have a vision, but just need some supplies to bring it to life, the center offers a non-instructional, supervised open art studio for ages 6-15 every weekday from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m.
- Sari Judge
NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED...
Richland Center, 608-647-8703, $650-$1300
Camp Woodbrooke is a nature-centered take on the traditional summer camp, located on 162 acres outside of Richland Center. The dining hall and game room are in a vintage Wisconsin barn, campers sleep in rustic cabins in the woods, and once a week campers go on a tent camping outing. A spring-fed pond is the site for swimming lessons and canoeing. While the program is based on Quaker teachings, camp directors underline that religious beliefs are not stressed; principles like peace and cooperation are. Activities also include archery, woodworking, cooking, gardening and pottery. From-scratch vegetarian or vegan meals are available, as are glucose-free and other diets, by request. Some foods come from the camp garden.
A weeklong session for children 7-12 starts June 24. Following that, three two-week sessions for children 7-12 take place starting July 1, and two two-week sessions for teens 13-15 take place starting July 15. There's also a family camping session to close out the summer on Aug. 31. An open house will take place May 20 from 1-4 p.m.
- Linda Falkensteincomments powered by Disqus
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.