specialty camps

Does your child want to pursue a hobby, interest or a career path more in depth? If so, think specialty camps! The best ones not only build skills but also encourage fun. Below are several types of specialty camps along with a few locations in Alaska where you can sign up your child.

Adventure

Adventure camps are a positive way for children to spend their summer and a great way for them to learn new skills according to the Department of Recreation, Adventure and Wellness at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF DRAW). Campers are challenged both physically and mentally as they learn lifelong teamwork, leadership and survival skills. “Quite a few of my highlights come from the rappelling day,” says Sam Braband, outdoor recreation manager for UAF. The campus has a 40-foot climbing tower that the kids rappel down. “This is usually where you see the most hesitation and fear. Honestly rappelling is very uncomfortable for someone who has never done it before. That is what makes it is so special to see the confidence the kids gain after pushing through their fears.” Plus, says Braband, “outdoor activities are FUN! What better way to spend the summer days than learning cool new skills.”

Adventure camp options…

Alaskan Quest Trips - Trailside Discovery
Campbell Creek Science Center, Anchorage
akcenter.org/trailside-discovery
Overnight camping adventures include kayaking and backpacking.

Wilderness Camp
Camp Li-Wa, Fairbanks
campliwa.org
Cook over an open fire, go on amazing hikes and develop your own campsite.

UAF DRAW Adventure Camps
UAF Campus, Fairbanks
uaf.edu/draw
Campers rock climb, hike, kayak, canoe and more.

The Woz
Homer Wilderness Leaders (HoWL), Homer
howlalaska.org/programs/the-woz
Fly in a small bush plane, land on the glacial lake, and set up base camp below some of Alaska’s best sport-climbing routes.

Art

Art camps inspire kids to reach beyond and create art that is unique to them. By doing so, kids feel empowered to be creative and expressive, says Susan Kerndt, director of Wild Rose Summer Camp. “It instills confidence and gives them great joy.”

Jeanne Larsen, executive director of the Summer of Wonder Camp at the Anchorage Waldorf School says, “Our camps are popular because we allow children to be children, to connect with the natural world and their new friends in an environment that is socially healthy and offers a rich experience in the creative arts.”

Art camp options…

Art & Inspiration in the Garden
Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Fairbanks
calypsofarm.org/education/LEAF
Explore various art mediums – writing, drawing, and photography – while exploring the garden.

Wild About Art
Kenai Watershed Forum Summer Camp, Soldotna
kenaiwatershed.org
This camp will use art to encourage a love of nature.

Pottery Camp
Art Building, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
uaf.edu/summer/kids
Learn how to make and decorate pots during this hands-on, educational week of fun with clay.

Summer of Wonder Big Kids Camp and KinderCamp
Anchorage Waldorf School
waldorfak.org/summer-camp-2015
Five week-long camps rich in art and craft activities.

Wild Rose Summer Camp, Fairbanks
wildrosesummercamp.com
An outdoor educational camp coupled with a creative art program.

Career Exploration

Career exploration camps, such as the CSI: Alaska Forensic Science Camp, offer an opportunity for kids to “see firsthand if it might be a career choice for them,” says Steven Arlow, a retired Captain with the Alaska State Troopers.

Camps like ACE Academy Camp are important because Alaska is so heavily reliant on aviation, says Margaret Timmerman, recreation programmer for the Anchorage Parks & Recreation Department. There are so many careers within that field, she says, and a tremendous number of people in those careers are at retirement age. “We need to replace those folks as they retire,” Timmerman explains. “We want our young people exposed. They are good paying jobs.”

“Our hope is that introducing young campers and parents to a college environment early in the student’s education will demystify any fears or preconceived notions they may have about college,” says Dr. Kathleen Nevis, Mini-Med School camp instructor. These camps are important, she says, “because they ‘plant the seed’ and open the possibility to explore careers they never thought possible.”

Career exploration camp options…

ACE Academy Camp
Spenard Recreation Center, Anchorage
muni.org
A week of aviation activities and visits to Merrill Field and the Aviation Museum.

Archaeology Camp
UA Museum of the North, Fairbanks
uaf.edu/summer/kids
Complete a simulated archaeological dig, examine authentic museum artifacts, and learn what it takes to be a real-life archaeologist.

CSI: Alaska Forensic Science Camp 2015
Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, Anchorage
alaskatroopermuseum.com
Learn about collecting evidence and processing a simulated crime scene.

Kids’ College 2015 Summer Camps
University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage
uaa.alaska.edu/continuinged
Programs include technology, video game creation, and the ever-popular Minecraft.

Mini-Med School
Mat-Su College, Palmer
matsu.alaska.edu/summer-science-camps
Explore body systems, manipulate human muscle models, assemble a skeleton, and perform hands-on dissection of animal organs.

Culinary

Culinary camps teach preparation, presentation, kitchen etiquette, stove safety and food safety. “Also many basic kitchen skills that build their confidence in the kitchen,” says Linnea Cummings of Alaska Dinner Factory. The highlight of Linnea’s camp is that each student takes home dinner to cook for their family that night. Campers “experience great pride that they’re providing their family with dinner each night and the praise they receive from all the delicious items.”

Culinary camp options…

Cooking in the Garden
Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Fairbanks
calypsofarm.org/education/LEAF
Learn how to cook with fresh vegetables harvested from the garden.

Culinary and Bakery Boot Camp
Lucy Cuddy Hall, UAA, Anchorage
uaa.alaska.edu/culinary/culinary-boot-camp
Cooking and baking at beginning and intermediate levels.

International Cooking Workshop
Hutchinson Career Center Kitchen, UAF
uaf.edu/summer/kids
Learn a variety of cooking methods, safety, etiquette and presentation.

Summer Kids Cooking Camps
Alaska Dinner Factory, Anchorage
alaskadinnerfactory.com/Kids_Camps
Learn basic kitchen skills, food safety and make a 3-serving entree and sides to take home for dinner.

Teen EcoAdventure Camp, Homer
akcoastalstudies.org/education-programs/summer-youth-programs
10-day outdoor adventure and environmental stewardship camp focusing on food.

Culture

In culture camps, children can take a peek into a community that is different from their own (or even explore their own heritage more indepth) through art, music and so much more. “When we can appreciate different cultures, we increase diversity and there is no better time to do that than in childhood!” says Jennifer Stratton, owner of Kaleidoscape Play Studio.

Culture camp options…

AK Native Culture Keepers – Trailside Discovery Day Programs
Campbell Creek Science Center, Anchorage
akcenter.org/trailside-discovery
Native elders share their knowledge in this new program that emphasizes Native arts and culture.

Around the World Workshop
Kaleidoscape Play Studio, Anchorage
kplaystudio.com/camps
Experience art, culture and music while “traveling” to four countries in four days.

Tanaina Child Development Center Summer Camp
St. Mary’s Episcopal, Anchorage
uaa.alaska.edu/childdevelopmentcenter
Learn about cultures through art, dance and music.

Gardening

Gardening camps help promote a love for gardening and appreciation for the environment. These camps are appealing “because kids get to be outdoors and it’s OK to get dirty!” says Patrick Ryan, education specialist at the Alaska Botanical Garden. “I think of gardening as a big science experiment, so if something goes wrong, you can learn from that too. We are not seeking perfection. And those kids who have that urge to explore seeds, insects, birds, weather, etc. will find something they can wrap their brains around.”

Gardening camp options…

Garden & Landscape Design - Alcan Gardening Summer Camp
Mini Golf Fairbanks in Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
alcansports.com/gardening
Learn the basics of planning and carrying out a planting project.

Junior Master Gardener
Alaska Botanical Garden, Anchorage
alaskabg.org
Gardening, insects, ecology and more.

Fun Down on the Farm - Trailside Discovery Day Programs
Spring Creek Farm, Palmer
akcenter.org/trailside-discovery
Learn about seeds, soil and compost, and eat fresh organic produce.

Seedlings and Sprouts in the Garden
Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Fairbanks
calypsofarm.org/education/LEAF
Planting, weeding, harvesting and other hands-on lessons and activities.

Music and Dance

Many kids enjoy their time in the spotlight at music and dance camps. At Alaska Dance Theatre, students can get the full “studio to stage” experience, says Erika Sandre, school director. “They not only get to work on developing new skills and techniques in class, but also get to showcase what they’ve learned in a safe and supportive in-studio theatre.”

Having fun is the main reason music and dance camps are so popular, says Vince Spezialy of Anchorage Music & Dance Center. “Participating in a performance group builds confidence, discipline, creativity and self expression… traits that lead to greater success in all areas of life.”

Music & Dance camp options…

Creative Movement Dance Camp
Alaska Dance Theatre, Anchorage
alaskadancetheatre.org
Daily class, choreography, arts and crafts and an in-studio performance with family.

Princess & Pirate Music & Drama Mini Camp
Alaska Fine Arts Academy, Eagle River
akfinearts.org
Features songs from Disney’s Princess & the Frog, Frozen, Peter Pan, and Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance.

Rock Star Camp
Anchorage Music & Dance Center, Anchorage
anchoragemusicanddance.com
Learn classic rock and pop songs from the Beatles, Santana, the Rolling Stones and more.

Beginning/Family Strings Camp
Alaska Fine Arts Academy, Eagle River
akfinearts.org
Introduces students to music reading and novice musical pieces.

Theatre

Theatre camps expose children to the performing arts in a unique, fun and educational manner. “Our students leave with a positive self image and a working knowledge of the content taught,” says Holly Lindsay, executive director at the Alaska Fine Arts Academy. “Every camp has an end of the week performance so parents are able to see the final product.”

Theater camp options…

Summer Programs
Alaska Theatre of Youth, Anchorage
alaskatheatreofyouth.org/education-summer.php
Programs include Glee Camp, Cirque Week and the Summer Youth Theatre Conservatory.

Sitka Fine Arts Camp
Sheldon Jackson Campus
fineartscamp.org
Discover your artistic passion through stimulating, high-quality instruction in visual arts, theatre and more.

Summer Theatre Arts Program
Valley Performing Arts, Wasilla
valleyperformingarts.org
Fundamentals of theatre production.

Magic Camp with Magic Guy Don Russell
Alaska Fine Arts Academy
akfinearts.org
Explore the mysteries of magic and learn “tricks of the trade” to amaze and amuse family and friends.

Animals

Specialty animal camps leave a lasting impression on today’s youth regarding wildlife, ecosystems and conservation,” says Stephanie Hartman, education director at the Alaska Zoo. These camps include feeding and enriching captive wildlife, getting up-close, personal encounters with animals, and engaging dialogue and interactions with both the education and husbandry staff. “They are completely immersive and totally ‘unFURgettable’!,” she says. “Where else can you learn about and meet a wolf, tiger and polar bear all in the same day?”

Animal camp options…

Summer Adventure Camps
The Alaska Zoo, Anchorage
alaskazoo.org
Behind-the-scenes experiences for youth to learn about animals, their care and conservation.

Summer Farm Camp
The Learning Farm, Anchorage
thelearningfarm.net
Fun-filled days of riding horses, feeding animals, games and crafts.

Ranch Camp and Discovery Days
Camp Li-Wa, Fairbanks
campliwa.org
Learn horsemanship from the ground up.

Junior Naturalist Summer Camp
Wynn Nature Center, Homer
akcoastalstudies.org
Explore the diverse habitats and wildlife of the forests and beaches around Kachemak Bay.

STEM

STEM camps are designed to encourage interest and provide exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), says Scott Hamel, director of the UAA Summer Engineering Academics. “The academies also seek to support historically underserved and underrepresented students who have limited opportunities for these experiences.”

Megan Gilmore of the Fairbanks Children’s Museum says that STEM camps are popular because “the campers are applying their curiosity to answer questions about the world around them. They are engaging and discovering how their world works.”

STEM camp options…

Camp Sholom
Joy Greisen Education Center, Anchorage
jecalaska.com/summer-camp
Themed weeks incorporating science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Summer Engineering Academics
UAA College of Engineering, Anchorage
uaa.alaska.edu/collegeofengineering
Each academy is designed to encourage interest and provide exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Alaska Summer Research Academy (ASRA)
Reichardt Building, UAF
uaf.edu/asra/summer-programs
A fun and intensive learning experience for students with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Summer Exploration Camps
Fairbanks Children’s Museum, Fairbanks
fairbankschildrensmuseum.com
Camps focus on art, science, building and storytelling.

Sports

At sports camps, kids can work with coaches to develop specific skills, such as kicking (football) or pitching (baseball). “The whole reason to expose kids to a variety of sports is to see what takes,” says Margaret Timmerman, recreation programmer for the Anchorage Parks & Recreation Department. “What do they like? What appeals to them and what will they look at as a lifelong sport to keep them healthy?”

Sports camp options…

Summer Fun Camps
The Alaska Club, Anchorage (East and South) and Fairbanks South
thealaskaclub.com
Offering healthy, active fun and a variety of sports to keep children moving all summer.

Day Camp
Spenard Recreation Center, Anchorage
muni.org/parks
Camps feature a variety of sports, swimming, biking and field trips.

Lil’ Classes
MTA Sports Center, Palmer
mtasportscenter.com
Programs include soccer, basketball, football and cheerleading.

Play to Learn Tennis
Delaney Park, Anchorage
pnw.usta.com/anchorage
Games and activities designed to provide a positive introduction to tennis.

Special Needs

At summer camp, kids get to be themselves while making friends and trying out new experiences. Kids with special needs can pursue all this – plus have a blast! – at camps equipped with adaptive facilities and skilled staff, says Shelby Carradine, Focus Summer camp director. “(Special needs) campers get the opportunity to experience new things, and develop skills they may not have believed they could accomplish. Our camp focuses on having fun, increasing ability, and forming long-lasting and meaningful relationships.”

Special needs camp options…

Focus Summer Program
Beach Lake Campground, Chugiak
focusoutreach.org
Summer day camp for campers experiencing developmental delays.

Adam’s Camp, Girdwood
adamscamp.org
A therapy camp for children who experience autism.

Alaska Diabetes Camp
Camp K, Cooper Landing
diabetes.org/adacampk
Campers learn how to manage their disease in a fun, positive learning environment.