Forget rest and relaxation. Summer camps specialize in training young scientists, artists, athletes and equestrians.
By JOHN BALZ
Published May 16, 2003
TAMPA - From chess to cheerleading, from kayaking to kite-flying, if there's a child wiggling in the Tampa Bay area there's probably a summer camp coaching.
Once just Mom and Dad's babysitter during the scorching July heat, summer camp now serves as a second classroom. Kids stretch their muscles - mental and physical - in new activities or in old-favorites.
"When I was young, we just played," said Pam Heilig, an instructor at the Tampa Art Museum and a teacher at Jefferson High School.
"It's like everything has a mission today. Kids have so much coming at them, I don't think they even realize how much they are learning."
Learning hits a rolling boil at Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry, which offers one of the longest and most diverse list of summer programs in the region.
But kids: Bring your thinking caps. The common themes at MOSI are investigation and science, says camp director Anthony Pelaez.
Likewise for another popular camp, Mangrove Marcus and his Picnic Island Adventure, organized by the City of Tampa. During the five-day ecological exploration, each student receives a "fishy name," according to Mangrove Marcus, a retired marine biology teacher whose real name is Marcus Paula.
Camps exist for almost every athletic event, team or individual.
John Mendoza teaches the 10 principles of goal keeping at the Brandon Goalkeeping Soccer Camp in Sydney.
Water sports - wake boarding and water skiing - make the big splash at McCormick's in Seffner.
Equestrian camps are common outside the Tampa city limits, including Turkey Creek Stables in Durant and Equestrian Alternatives Inc. in Lutz.
Should you get thrown from the saddle, consult the campers at the University of South Florida's Sports Medicine Camp, who learn to recognize certain injuries common to ankles and wrists and how to tape and wrap swollen joints.
Artistically curious kids flock to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and the Tampa Museum of Art to paint, sing, sculpt and act. At the Hyde Park Art Studio, art takes on a practical element as campers build working kites out of butcher paper. At the Academic Center of Tampa, budding young screenwriters collaborate.
Program prices vary depending on the length of a session and the activity.
Counselors and directors at most camps recommend signing up as early as possible. And if spots are taken, don't panic. There's often hope on a waiting list.