Summer Camps in Alaska: Nature’s playground, just for kids!

Hit the water at summer camp!

I looked at the calendar this morning and realized Alaska’s kids have less than three weeks (gasp!) until the final bells ring and school doors open to disgorge thousands of students for another long, short summer of fun in the Last Frontier. What to do? Send them away (to camp)!

Why consider camp for your kids? Often it’s purely practical, but gosh, there’s a lot to do up here, too.

Like many places, Alaska has a large number of children from one-or-two-parent working families, so summer camps must accommodate a 9-5 schedule, and then some. But the 49th state is also rather unique when it comes to options for camp experiences; farming to forestry, biking to boating, languages to leaves, summer camps in Alaska run the gamut with a definite affinity for the outdoors and cultural awareness.

Not sure your child is ready? Read the American Camp Association’s guidelines for determining camp readiness, and always ask staff at your particular choice for suggestions.

Then, send your child to one of these day or overnight experiences with a bright smile, clean socks, and a backpack full of goodies to share. It’ll be great, for all of you.

Image courtesy of CACS.

The sea is home to all sorts of creatures, big and small!

Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Homer: Offering summer day and overnight programs, CACS is geared up for a brilliant summer of marine exploration, both in Homer and across Kachemak Bay at their Peterson Bay Field Station yurts. Serving kids as young as five (for day camp), young people will learn about oceans, marine life, ecology, and teamwork as they explore their watery world. What I like: Family camps and a special Teen Eco-Adventure in 2014. I also love the fact that CACS staff will transport Anchorage kids to and from Homer for sleepaway camp. YES! Camps run June through August, depending upon the age group.


Learn all about goats at Calypso Farm's summer programs.

If you grow it, you'll know it! Image courtesy Calypso Farm and Ecology Center.

Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Fairbanks: Okay, the farm is really located in Ester, about 11 miles from Fairbanks. This is a delightful wonderland of green and growing things, animals, and kind people to gently guide children in the ways of farming. Choose either the LEAF (Learning Ecology and Alaska Farming) day camps for grades K-12, held in local schools and on the farm; or try Summer Adventure Week June 16-20 for children age 8-15. Summer Adventure Week covers animal husbandry, beekeeping, felting, spinning, and all sorts of traditional farm-type activities. What I like: A return to simpler times, when kids knew exactly what they ate and wore, and how it came to them.


Image courtesy Sitka Fine Arts Camp

Image courtesy Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Sitka Fine Arts Camp, Sitka: This camp, held on the campus of the former Sheldon Jackson College in downtown Sitka is rapidly becoming a shining star among the fine arts world. Bringing together faculty and counselors from a variety of fine art backgrounds, this camp serves kids in grade 1 through college, with theatre, jazz, circus skills, strings, visual arts, and vocal components. Be forewarned, however, this camp fills up fast, so whether you choose to take your child to a week of day camp sessions and stay overnight at one of Sitka’s excellent lodging options, or send a teen to Sitka alone for a week of drama and art, make plans now. What I like: Art promotes communication with anyone from anywhere, and I love that as a travel writer. Camps begin in June and run through July.


Join the Puffin for outdoor fun!

Image courtesy TDC, Alaska Center for the Environment.

Trailside Discovery Camp, Anchorage: One of the most popular day programs with overnight adventures serving kids preschool through high school, TDC is operated by the Alaska Center for the Environment and remains a shining star among southcentral families. AK Kid has attended since kindergarten, moving up through the ranks of day camping to now participating in overnight programs that emphasize ecology, stewardship, and teamwork. Whether your kids are learning about volcanoes or bugs, or cruising through the woods on a mountain bike, they’ll come away with new friends and newfound knowledge of the Alaska wilderness they are so fortunate to live and play within. What I like: The combination of two days at Campbell Creek Science Center and three days of camping for ‘tweens just becoming used to the idea of self-responsibility in the backcountry. I also like the extensive training of staff; never have I felt more confident in sending AK Kid out into bear country without me. Camps begin as soon as school is out in May.


How about a virtual trip to France?

Learn about Germany's flag, history, and vibrant culture.

Babylon Language Immersion Camps, Anchorage: Whether French, Chinese, or German, knowing a second language (or more) means kids gain a global awareness of the world and the cultures that make it unique. Making connections by becoming a “global citizen” for a week while choosing a particular language and culture (German, Chinese, French, Japanese, Russian, or Spanish), kids will play games, make crafts, sing songs, and embrace a different country, all while working together. What I like: Alaska is rich in both language and culture, so the global citizen concept is one that reaches far beyond a basic understanding of language; campers will come away with a better understanding of each other. Camps run each week in June.

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