Science! Nature! Cooking! Concept Camps in the Merrimack Valley

Summer camps and classes are a great way for youths to continue taking part in constructive activities during school vacation. Active Science, designed by Merrimack College professor Kyle McInnis, is a nationwide program that promotes physical fitness and STEM skills for kids. Several Merrimack Valley YMCA branches, including the Andover/North Andover location, serve as national testing centers for the project. During Active Science sessions, kids spend about 45 minutes engaging in physical activity while wearing devices that monitor their steps and the distance they travel. They then take their data to apply it to a STEM lesson. Active Science is open to kids in kindergarten through fifth grade and is among the summer camps offered by the YMCA.

For the fifth year, the Francis College of Engineering at UMass Lowell is hosting two weeklong summer camps for high school students in July. The Future Engineers Camp is offered to students entering the 10th, 11th or 12th grade. These overnight sessions introduce participants to engineering through projects, guest speakers and field trips. 

Students learn about different types of engineering and related concepts, from the internet, to sustainability, to infrastructure and more. There is a second session for women only.

During the summer STEM program at Code & Circuit in Amesbury, participants delve into computer science, engineering and technology. Participants will be introduced to the Scratch 3.0 programming language, robotics, 3D printing and more during the four-day sessions. The camp is open to students in grades K-8 and participants are given the flexibility to focus on a specific area or subject. “Each student can choose to work on what they are the most interested in,” says Ken Aspeslagh, owner of Code & Circuit.

Merrohawke Nature School is a year-round nonprofit organization that connects children to land and sea. Fishing, tracking, building and boating are among the skills taught here. The school’s summer offerings include a weeklong Coyote Overnight program that introduces young people ages 12 and over to nighttime navigation, advanced fire making and the ability to identify poisonous plants. At Merrohawke, children as young as 4 may register for a range of earth- and sea-based programs. 

Nestled within Harold Parker State Forest of Andover, Camp Evergreen has maintained a firm commitment to nature-based education for 55 years and offers an eight-week summer camp for children ages 6 and up. Activities and skills offered at Camp Evergreen include animal tracking, fort-, shelter- and fire-building, archery, swimming, maple tapping, horseback riding, wild edible foraging and learning about Native American history and culture.

“We’re committed to introducing our campers to nature in a way that is fun and bolsters their independence,” says Program Director Jim Loscutoff. “Oftentimes we think of nature as our backdrop, but we try to bring it front and center.”

Closing in on their 50th anniversary, Roudenbush Community Center is an integral part of the Westford community and offers children of all ages a place to take part in pottery classes, gymnastics and preschool. Roudenbush also offers a collection of culinary events for aspiring chefs ages 4 and up. Special themed activities for young children include “Harry Potter Dessert Decorating,” “Patriotic, Handmade Treats,” and more. 

Cheryl Holbert, owner of Nomad Bakery, was raised enjoying the traditional bread-making of her Polish grandmother. After teaching herself how to bake, Holbert discovered a passion for producing delicious breads and now wishes to share her knowledge with others. Holbert offers students of all ages an opportunity to prepare and decorate their own delicious breads, all in the same kitchen where she produces her own striking loaves. [Sound interesting? You can learn all about Holbert and area bakers in the January/February 2019 issue of mvm]. Classes are twice a month and discounted for family members. 

Kaleidoscope is a nonprofit enrichment program that has engaged Merrimack Valley children with cultural and educational activities for nearly 40 years. Their curriculum is varied — from video game design to music to language skills. Want more? How about geology, mindfulness, dance and robotics? However, for aspiring kitchen wizards, their popular “International Young Chefs” course is perfect. That is, if you can snag a seat — they fill up fast so reserve early. Perhaps your child is interested in nutritional science? “Rainbow Food Fest” fuses edible artistry with organic foods. Sounds like a feast fit for Instagram.     

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