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Summer of discovery
By MAUREEN BYRNE
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000
Summer vacation has just begun, yet some kids already are whining: "There's nothing to do."
But there is plenty to do.
Several schools and community centers offer free summer drop-in programs for different age groups. These are usually indoor activities -- basketball to board games, crafts to swimming.
A quick call to your local parks and recreation department can provide plenty of fun-filled options for youths. Many of the programs are low-cost or free.
But if Mom and Dad are willing to spend a few extra bucks, their child can learn to paint like Picasso (well, maybe), discover the Florida wildlife (bugs and all) and learn to dance like a pro (they'll teach you a step or two).
We've highlighted three such summer camps:
If you think your child is a budding artist, a series of art classes may be in order.
The Creative Arts Camp is offering five weeklong sessions at the Beach Art Center, 1515 Bay Palm Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach. From 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, kids 7 to 12 can learn to paint, design stained glass and sculpt. The $65 weekly fee includes materials and snacks. Call (727) 596-4331.
"It's not just an arts and crafts program," said Betsy Schoepf, executive director of the Beach Art Center. "It's to develop any (artistic) talent a child might have."
Beginning Monday, the students will learn, using Q-tips, pointillism, a style of painting using dots of color that blend together when seen from a distance. They'll also make some pen-and-ink drawings and experiment in the fiber arts.
From June 26-29, instructor Stacie Little, an art teacher at Oakhurst Elementary School, will show students how to make collage castles and stained glass. The July 10 session will focus on charcoal drawings and 3-D masks.
Those who attend classes July 17-21 will make foam puppets as well as sketch fantasy drawings of wizards, gargoyles and fairies. During the camp's final session, July 24-28, students will learn batik and create clay sculptures.
"They can go as many as six weeks or as little as one and they will never repeat the same activity," Schoepf said.
Television and computers can be great educational tools, but when it comes to learning about the outdoors, there is nothing like the real thing.
Moccasin Lake Nature Park, 2750 Park Trail Lane, Clearwater, is offering seven five-day sessions, each with a different theme. Science Safari, an educational outreach company based in Seminole, will conduct the summer program. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Extended hours are 8 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 5 p.m.
The camp is open to 6- to 11-year-olds. Environmental games, crafts, activities and hikes through the 51-acre park will introduce young naturalists to science and nature. The seven themes are Making Waves (June 19-23), Dig it! (June 26-30), Adventurous Scientist (July 10-14), Creep, Crawl and Slither (July 17-21), Wildlife Watch (July 23-28), Water Wonders (July 31-Aug. 4) and Florida Underground (Aug. 7-14).
Lloyd Simmons, owner of Science Safari, said representatives from various agencies, such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will give presentations on Florida's ecosystems, plants and wildlife.
"The camps are educational in nature," he said. "It's not a babysitting service."
The fee is $135 per week, or $90 with a city of Clearwater participant card. There is a $10 discount for siblings. Campers must bring their lunch. Call (727) 462-6024 or (727) 585-2298.
Boys and girls can be stars in their own music videos at Summer 2000. The program is one of seven weekly camps available at Steps School of Dance, 2221 Hercules Ave., Clearwater. Youths 7 to 18 can enroll in one or all seven camps, said Susan Sterling, office manager. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Summer 2000 begins Monday with Making of a Video . . . MTV. During the five-day program, campers will choose a song, learn a choreographed dance and make a video, Sterling said.
The other weekly themes are Broadway Bound (June 26-30), Swing (July 10-14), Making of a Video . . . MTV (July 17-21), Project Dance I (July 24-28), Circus (July 31-Aug. 4) and Project Dance II (Aug. 7-11).
The curriculum includes dance/theater movement, improvisation, mime, music theory, videography and more, Sterling said. Each of the camps culminates in a mini showcase on Friday night.
The camp's purpose "is to nurture the art of dance with professional training in a safe, structured, well-directed environment," says Maureen Gibson, the school's artistic director. "These educational programs are fun and exciting."
The weekly fee is $165. Ten percent discounts are offered to students who enroll in three or more camps, and a 20 percent discount is given to those who attend all seven weeks. Call (727) 734-7121.
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