Specialty Camps Offer Deep Dive into Wide Range of Interests



Specialty camps are among the fastest-growing segment of the summer camp industry in the Pittsburgh region. Computer programming, language learning, and even life-skills building courses have edged out traditional summer camps of the past. The best part about specialty camps is that they cater to all age groups. From elementary-aged children to older teens, finding a specialty summer camp is easier than ever.


The Baierl Family YMCA is leading the pack with some innovative and creative camp offerings for children and teens this summer. Todd Brinkman, association vice president of youth enrichment, said that the Y’s Discovery Camp is designed to hold kids’ interest. “Kids need more structure but greater choices,” he said. “That’s why we’ve modified our previous camp program to fit a different routine.”


From 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, children enrolled in the day camp can enjoy a guest speaker from a local organization. The Carnegie Science Center and Snapology are two of the local organizations who will be providing speakers. Brinkman said that each speaker has a full week to spend with the campers, leading them in discussions and activities designed to give a deep dive into a specific career or hobby.


“Having our guests here for the entire week instead of cramming their presentations into an hour session gives kids time to explore their creativity to the fullest,” said Brinkman.


Some of the topics that the YMCA program delves into includes S.T.E.A.M. and outdoor adventures. “All of our camps have an adventure element,” said Brinkman.


Campers truly have a mix of interests to explore every week for the full eight weeks. Children can sign up for one week or all eight weeks, picking and choosing the topics that interest them. The program provides 20 different day camps. The classes serve children kindergarten-age through 15. Learn more or register at www.ycamps.org.


Another specialty camp option for kids of all ages can be found at the Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley. “With arts education increasingly left behind in traditional school settings, we hope to provide every child with the experience of enriching arts programming,” said Erin Cory, education and administration manager. “We know it has the power to change lives and impact generations because we see it every day.”


Sweetwater hopes to provide every child with the experience of enriching arts programming. From June 13 through August 19, the talented teaching artists at Sweetwater have planned new and exciting programs in ceramics, painting, drawing, mixed media, cartooning, illustration, S.T.E.A.M. and more.


“We welcome campers as young as 4 up to age 16 with full and half-day opportunities,” said Cory. “There’s truly something for everyone.”


Families can apply for full and partial scholarship opportunities to cover the costs of the summer programs. The application and instructions can be found on their website at www.sweetwaterartcenter.org. Registration is open starting in mid-March and families can follow the Sweetwater social media accounts and website for updates.


Interested in exploring your inner farmer? Blue Ribbon Farms in Aliquippa offers a Little Farmers Day Camp experience for children aged 4 through 13. Campers can bottle feed newborn calves, ride ponies, and feed and care for the other animals on the farm. They also learn how to care for and cultivate an expansive garden, while preparing dishes made from products grown on the farm. Children also can enjoy crafts, games and nature walks. The camp runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 14-16, June 28-30, July 12-14, July 19-20 and August 2-4. Visit their website at www.blueribbonfarmsinc.com for more information.


Another day camp possibility for young chefs is the new Flour Power Kids Cooking Studios: Pittsburgh. Pine resident Amy Knight is opening a franchise of this popular national program in Hampton Township just in time for the summer months. The five-day programs operate weekly from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. between June and August. Cost is $325 per week. Early drop-off and late pick-up are available for an extra fee.


Knight said that each week the camp will have a different theme. Campers will cook their meals for the day and engage in crafts and science experiments to complement the cooking lessons. Life skills are a big part of this day camp experience, with children learning about food safety and everything they need to know to make their way around a kitchen. Summer camp sign-ups will be posted on the Flour Power website at flourpowerstudios.com. Families can follow the local franchise on social media for the latest news and updates about the camps, Knight said. The Facebook and Instagram accounts can be found under the hashtag @FlourPowerPittsburgh.


Some of the most popular choices for young adults in the community are offered by Point Park University. Heidi Ward, Point Park’s director of community and summer education, said attending a specialized program during the summer gives prospective college students a chance to focus on their interests.


“Participants are immersed in their chosen subject and often make significant progress during the summer season that helps them to improve and feel more confident during the academic year,” she said. “It is a joy to watch our students grow over such a short amount of time and find assurance that they are on the right path.”


Ward said that it can be difficult for students to grasp what going to college is like when they’ve never had the chance to experience a weeklong schedule with a central focus. Summer programs help with time management, organization and interpersonal relationships. “For those unsure of a specific subject, I would recommend a program that offers a variety of academic classes so they can still get insight into the college lifestyle.”


Summer programs students can attend at Point Park include:


Esports programming. This “outside of the box” course includes two different sessions, each focusing on a specific video game for one week. The dynamic camps apply connected learning models by bridging the intersections of genuine youth interests and technological career success.


Accounting Career Awareness. This program provides realistic subject material all young people need for managing their independence. Applicants selected for the course enjoy it completely free of charge thanks to the generosity of local sponsors.


Check out Point Park’s full offerings on the community and summer education section of their website at www.pointpark.edu.

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