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North Hills Monthly

Summer Camps Cater to Kids of Every Age

Apr 01, 2018 09:35AM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch

Carnegie Science Center

Every summer, millions of children attend summer camps throughout the United States. Summer day camp can be great for elementary and middle school-aged children as it gives them the opportunity to make friends, learn new skills, have adventures, and get some exercise. It also cuts down on screen time by getting them outdoors and encouraging active play. 

But did you know that summer camp can be beneficial to your preschoolers and teenagers as well? 

Many programs take children as young as 2 years old—and while this might sound too young, there are some pros to consider, especially if your child will be entering preschool or kindergarten in the fall.

Summer camp can provide a preview of school, particularly for children who haven't been to daycare, according to, the official website of the bestselling book What to Expect When You're Expecting. The transition from laid-back, flexible days at home with a parent or caretaker to the relative structure of a classroom environment can be challenging. 

“Camps are a wonderful opportunity to introduce your child to new friends and engaging activities. All of Phipps’ summer camps and seasonal programming for children ages 2 to 4 years old are designed to strengthen social interactions and learning, following Pennsylvania Early Education State Standards guidelines for students in math, literacy, and science,” said Jenna Bodnar, communications coordinator for Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

The personalized, 75-minute classes are offered regularly throughout the summer and cover topics including healthy living, art, science and sustainability. 

“Our Little Sprouts program is a favorite at Phipps, with a range of unique options for children,” said Bodnar. “They use their senses to explore and investigate plants, bugs, nature and much more. They have fun while practicing important skills like teamwork, coordination and self-confidence while exploring the beauty and wonders of nature at Phipps.”

Summer camp can also be a great ‘practice run’ for kids who don't have a lot of experience being away from mom and dad. The Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley offers a number of weekly, half-day, and full-day summer camps for ages 4-17 in the visual, performing and culinary arts. Among the many camps offered is Cooking around the World, which takes kids on a culinary world tour without leaving the kitchen, making and sampling the foods of different countries. Food safety and fundamental cooking skills are also taught.

The Carnegie Science Center is the place to be this summer for science-filled fun for kids. The camp programs, which include pre- and post-camp child care, offer campers access to hundreds of hands-on exhibits in their world-class, high-definition Buhl Planetarium, Highmark Sportsworks®, and real Cold War submarine. 

“Our camps are designed to help little learners in a variety of ways,” said Events Marketing Manager Megan McKenzie. “Kids are able to use measurement, estimation, sorting and creativity methods, among other things. A new half-day camp, Storytime Science, explores life cycles with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and experiments with the senses in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.” 

These camps also encourage little builders to unleash their imaginations by turning ordinary objects into extraordinary structures, teach little explorers about the wonders of creepy crawly bugs and insects, and help mini-scientists learn about chemistry, space and machines.

Pittsburgh’s CLO Academy offers performance camps for ‘Promising Preschoolers’ to high school seniors. These camps are designed to give students the opportunity to experience preparing for and performing on the stage as they work with a director, choreographer and music director to create their own exciting musical theater experiences.

For teenagers, camps not only teach hard skills for future careers, but they foster valuable life skills like problem-solving, creativity and collaboration. The Science Center offers two-day workshops where teens are immersed in experiments that include the digital fabrication technologies of 3D printing and laser cutting, as well as building and assembling a quadcopter mini-drone. 

New for 2018, the National Aviary is offering two sessions of their popular Teen Week program. “Campers participating in this program will get hands-on experience with birds in their natural habitats,” said Trisha O’Neill, director of education. 

Students will also have the opportunity to explore the Aviary's free-flight habitats, work among flocks of lorikeets, flamingos and penguins, prepare meals for the birds alongside aviculturists, and experience a day-in-the-life of a zoo veterinarian in the state-of-the-art bird hospital. 

“What the students really come away with is the experience of working alongside their like-minded peers as well as our education trainers,” said O’Neill. “The kids have the passion to learn, and it is our job to be a springboard for them; we want to pass on our insight and guidance so that the next generation can take that wisdom and build from it.” 

The sessions also include exploring the environment outside of the Aviary. “We teach supporting nature and the habitats of the birds, especially, through bird banding demonstrations—it’s a responsibility that we take personally and seriously,” said O’Neill.

Whether preschoolers and teens want to explore more of a subject that they already love or try something different, the Pittsburgh region promises camp programs for every interest. And children not only have the time of their lives, but learn the kinds of lessons that will serve them well in the future. 

For more information, visit the following websites:

Phipp’s Conservatory and Botanical Garden:
Sweetwater Center for the Arts:
Carnegie Science
Pittsburgh Civic Light
National Aviary: