From acting to fishing to crafting to flinging pumpkins, local organizations offer a variety of camp options for kids.
While a few camps have been offered for more than a decade, some of those have expanded and added new activities and new camps have popped up in recent years.
The Kenai Watershed Forum and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge both began offering summer camps within the past six years and both are becoming increasingly popular.
“Almost every year we’ve filled our camps,” said Michelle Ostrowski, education specialist at the refuge. “The last couple years they’ve completely filled.”
While the refuge usually offers more camp sessions, due to a staffing shortage, it had to cut back this year to one session each for Critter Camp and Get Out and Get Dirty Camp. Ostrowski said both camps are already full.
She said her goal with creating summer camps is to have kids attend and grow up through the refuge’s camps.
“I get a lot of kids who have done one camp and when they’re eligible they do the next camp,” Ostrowski said.
The refuge also offered overnight Adventure Camp for older kids in 2010 and 2011 when staffing was available.
While Ostrowski said some parents have been disappointed more refuge camps aren’t available, she is working to put on a two-hour art and science day on Wednesdays in the month of July for kids ages 3-13.
“We’re looking to expand our camps, but it’s dependant on budgets and staffing,” she said.
Dan Pascucci, education specialist with the watershed, said this is the organization’s fourth year of summer camps. He said the organization was able to grow the school year program, but wanted the opportunity to expand education beyond the schools, so it started summer camps.
“We wanted to make sure that other people in the community had an opportunity to access those types of programs that do connect kids with their environment,” Pascucci said. “And also to give people who already have experienced the watershed forum’s education programs a more in-depth connection to it.”
The watershed offers three different week-long day camps — Small Fry Camp for ages 6-8 and Smolt and Adopt a Stream Camps for ages 9-12. Small Fry Camp runs four different weeks, Smolt Camp runs one weekand Adopt a Stream Camp runs two different weeks.
He said the first year the watershed offered camps, the Small Fry Camps filled up quickly. The other two camps for older kids don’t seem to fill up as soon.
“Some of that might have to do with sports camps or kids that are able to take care of themselves while their parents are at work,” he said.
Pascucci said he’s heard feedback from people that are grateful for the additional camp opportunity the watershed offers. However, he’s also heard comments that the area has too many options.
“We try to make sure what we offer is a little bit different and just as engaging, if not more,” he said.
Joe Rizzo, Triumvirate Theatre president, said the Soldotna Drama Camp began in 1998. He said he’s seen an increase in interest in the camp in recent years.
“There was a while there where our numbers kind of waned and it might be because there’s a lot of summer camps available to kids,” he said. “Back when we started in ’98 there weren’t that many summer camps, but now it’s like there’s a whole bunch of options, which I think is good.”
Recently organizers of the camp decided to add a second session to give parents an additional opportunity to fit Soldotna Drama Camp in their summer schedules. This summer kids can attend camp from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. June 9-21 or July 28-Aug. 9. Performances are the last day of camp.
Compared to many area camps that focus on the outdoors, Soldotna Drama Camp offers a different opportunity for kids, Rizzo said.
“It caters to a specific kind of kid — the one that enjoys being on stage and likes plays and the thrill of doing theater,” he said.
The camp is open to kids who can read a script up to teens who will be seniors in the fall, Rizzo said. Camp scholarships are available thanks to donations from local businesses.
Summer Lazenby, director of educational operations at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai, said their summer camp program has been operating for at least a decade. This year the center has revised the camp schedule and revamped previous camps as well as added a new one.
The center is running three camp options for three age groups. She said by running the camps two different weeks instead of four or five like it did in years past, the center is able to keep costs lower. It also helps parents who have kids in different age groups.
The new camp this year is Flingonomics — Science of the Trebuchet, an overnight camp for eighth-twelfth graders July 13-18. Lazenby said kids will learn about the science of trebuchets — French catapults. They will get to build a trebuchet and launch pumpkins at the end of camp.
“It’s a physics-based camp that shows how (physics) isn’t that scary,” she said.
The North Peninsula Recreation Service Area Summer Day Camp has been around for 20 to 25 years Tammy Berdahl said. While organizers keep some favorite projects of kids, they also change up the activities. Kids can expect, among other things, to do arts and crafts, cook, swim, hike and play sports and games.
Last year Berdahl said a new activity that will continue this year is the story time program that incorporates a weekly story and related project.
The eight-week camp runs from June 10-July 31 Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parents can choose from a variety of payment plans based on how many days or activities their kids will attend.
“It’s very versatile for the parents,” Berdahl said. “Our focus is recreation and a chance for (kids) to come and have fun.”