Spring may have its bluebirds and pollen, but for my money, there is no surer sign of encroaching summer than a child's backpack.
Fresh and functional in September, it is a sorry specimen by May: The zipper is missing teeth, and the bottom has worn thin from being dragged (or kicked, depending on the bearer's mood) across the school parking lot.
Your child's interest in school may be wearing thin by now too, but as any savvy parent knows, there's nothing like a good bribe to lure your reluctant scholar through the final weeks of the term. And, be it a night under the stars or a chance to strut and fret upon the stage, a summer camp or workshop can be a fine lure.
There are several criteria to keep in mind when choosing a program for your child, says Shirley Walch, executive director of the American Camping Assn., Southern California section. These include the adult-to-child ratio, the age and experience of the counselors or program leaders and the program's suitability to your child's personality or needs. ACA's office in Calabasas can provide a complete check list, as well as a guide to ACA accredited day camps and resident (sleep-over) camps in Southern California and Hawaii. You can reach them at (818) 223-9232.
Day camps and workshop series abound for kids in our area; the following list is a small sampling. Bear in mind that almost every program requires advance registration, and most fill up quickly.
From July 5 through 29, the Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre will present a series of musical theater workshops for budding actors age 10 to 17. According to director Joe Lauderdale, the sessions will be led by local theater professionals and will cover such areas as singing, dancing, acting and vocal projection. Classes will be divided by age group and will meet weekday mornings. At the end of the session, students will perform a musical revue.
Fee: The workshop price has not been set, but Lauderdale expects it will be around $250 to $300 per student.
Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. (714) 494-0744, Ext. 207. *
South Coast Repertory bills its Summer Theatre Workshop as "the perfect introduction to theater" for children. An offshoot of SCR's venerable Youth Conservatory program, the workshop is an overview of the performing arts led by theater professionals, covering topics ranging from acting to set design and construction. Hands-on experience is emphasized. Like the Laguna Playhouse, SCR wraps up its workshop with an original performance.
Designed for students age 8 to 14, the workshop runs Aug. 1 through 13 at SCR. Fee: $185.
South Coast Repertory, 695 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. (714) 957-2602, Ext. 210. *
Although Broadway on Tour children's theater expects a change of address by the fall (it will lose its home at The City shopping center by summer's end, sources say), the group hopes to present a two-week summer theater program in early August. Check with the company later in the summer for details.
Broadway on Tour, 20 City Blvd. East, Orange. (714) 385-1555.
The Laguna Art Museum presents two programs for children and families this summer, both at locations outside the gallery.
First up: "Green Kids: Summer Eco-Art Adventures," a day-camp series that uses LAM's "Fragile Ecologies" exhibit as its basis. Children age 5 to 12 explore their environment through hands-on art projects and fantasy play every Friday from July 8 through Aug. 12 at the Art Institute of Southern California in Laguna Beach. LAM field trips are included. Fee: $75.
On Aug. 20, LAM hosts the Joseph Cornell Nature Awareness Family Workshop at Laguna Laurel Wilderness Park for children age 6 and up and their families (adult participation is required). Fee: $15 per person.
Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach. (714) 494-8971. *
Art classes for children age 2 1/2 through 13 continue through the summer at the Newport Harbor Art Museum. Topics include Mexican folk art, architecture, watercolor and an international "tour" that acquaints children with a variety of cultures and periods in history through hands-on art projects. Most classes meet twice weekly for two weeks in the museum. Fee: $35 to $40.
Newport Harbor Art Museum, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach. (714) 759-1122. *
"Plein air" art takes on a new meaning at the Irvine Fine Arts Center summer camp. When participants aren't inside the studio working with clay, paints or other media, they can be found in adjacent Heritage Park, taking part in aquatic or other outdoor activities. Field trips to local museums are also planned.
The two-week sessions are open to children age 6 to 10. Program begins June 27 and continues weekdays through Sept. 2. Fees: $120 to $240; extended day care is available.
IFAC will also continue its weekly children's art classes throughout the summer. Fee: $35 to $65 per session.
Irvine Fine Arts Center, 14321 Yale Ave., Irvine. (714) 552-1018. *
As of this week, the Children's Museum at La Habra had not confirmed plans for its Vacation Art Camp, but check with them later in the season, says the museum's assistant director Melissa Banning.
Meanwhile, the museum's changing gallery will host "What's Bugging You?" a hands-on display dedicated to creepy, crawly things that runs Monday, May 23, through Sept. 11. Saturday workshops that enhance the exhibit will continue through the summer; workshops are free with gallery admission of $3.50.
Children's Museum at La Habra, 301 S. Euclid St., La Habra. (310) 905-9793. *
The Fullerton Museum Center's Super Tuesday workshops will take on a global spin this summer. The sessions, which begin June 23 and continue through Aug. 9 (there is no session on June 30) will use hands-on art activities to explore the traditions of Mexico, Japan, India, Africa and the Middle East. Recommended for kids age 8 to 12. Fee: $5 per class.
Fullerton Museum Center, 301 N. Pomona Ave., Fullerton. (714) 738-6545.
For your all-around jock, the Sporting Club hosts the Step by Step Summer Sporting Camp. Held in the 30,000-square-foot Irvine health club, the 2-year-old program includes such activities as kayaking, swimming and snorkeling in the club's pool, as well as in-line skating, aerobics, fencing and rock-climbing on the facility's climbing wall. Basketball, volleyball, soccer and other sports are also included.
The camp is open to age 6 to 12. Extended care is offered. Sessions run June 27 through Sept. 2. Discount for registration before June 15. Fee: $137.50 per week.
The Sporting Club at Lakeshore Towers, 18007 Von Karman Ave., Irvine. (714) 250-4422, Ext. 312. *
Co-hosted by NBA veteran and GWC alumni Jack Haley, the Complete Player Basketball Camp at Golden West College offers shooting contests, league play, guest speakers and other activities for kids age 7 to 18. The clinic runs Aug. 1 through 5. Fee: $225. Discount for registration before June 15.
Golden West College, 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach. Call (800) 554-2722 for a basketball camp brochure. *
Kids can kick around with members of the Anaheim Splash soccer team and professional coaches at the new Garden Grove Arena Soccer Park Summer Camp. A swimming pool is available in June and July. For kids age 4 through 17, the one-week sessions begin June 27. Fee: $110.
Garden Grove Arena Soccer Park Summer Camp, 9393 Westminster Blvd. (adjacent to Bolsa Grande High School), Garden Grove. (714) 890-0259.
Building programs around rocks, dirt, bugs and critters is what the folks at Oak Canyon Nature Center do best. Beginning June 20, the park will offer its Indian Summer day camp; each weeklong session will focus on a different topic, ranging from "Fire in the Sky" (astronomy and weather) to "Legend of the Orca" (ocean life). Programs run weekdays through Aug. 19 and include Native American arts and crafts, ceremonial games and dances.
Open to children age 4 to 10. Fee: $55 per week.
(Note: Oak Canyon will also continue to host its one-hour family workshops each Saturday, as well as periodic parent-child programs. Free Nature Night hikes will be held Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.)
Oak Canyon Nature Center, 6700 E. Walnut Canyon Road, Anaheim Hills. (714) 998-8380 *
Science Adventures day camps turn 12 this summer. Programs are held at eight locations in Orange County: Yorba Regional Park in Anaheim Hills, Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, Cal State Fullerton Arboretum, Mason Park in Irvine, Laguna Niguel Regional Park, Mariners Park in Newport Beach, Irvine Regional Park in Orange and San Clemente's San Gorgonio Park.
Each one-week session has a different theme, including "Space Rocketry" and "Science Magic Gizmos." Small group instruction is featured; most instructors are credentialed teachers.
Sessions run June 20 through Aug. 26. Fee: $95 to $160.
(Science Adventures also coordinates an after-school science club that is offered by several local school districts.)
Science Adventures, (800) 472-4362. *
With an underwater viewing theater and an on-board laboratory, the Orange County Marine Institute's new R/V Sea Explorer will significantly expand the facility's public programs, says a spokesman. Summer activities will include a family harbor "eco-tour," an evening bioluminescence cruise and an interactive audio-video cruise in which visitors communicate with divers as they explore kelp forests and reefs. (All are offered on multiple dates throughout the summer; call the institute for specifics.) Overnight programs aboard OCMI's tall ship, the Pilgrim, are also offered. Fees range from $6 to $90, depending on the activity.
Orange County Marine Institute, 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point. (714) 496-2274. *
At just 2 1/2 acres, the Environmental Nature Center is a micro-microcosm of California's plant life. The site, which is used year-round as an outdoor science classroom for local schools, becomes a Nature Camp Science Summer School for the general public June 27 through Aug. 4.
An ENC spokeswoman says that the series is unlike other summer programs because it emphasizes science curriculum over recreation. Credentialed teachers lead groups in hands-on science projects that focus on themes such as conservation or rocks and fossils and conduct field trips to Griffith Park Observatory, La Brea Tar Pits and the Orange County Marine Institute.
Sessions run Monday through Thursday. Fee: $175 to $225 for a two-week session.
Environmental Nature Center, 1601 16th St., Newport Beach. (714) 645-8489.
The Santa Ana Zoo offers a series of Zoo Camps, ranging from an introductory program for 6- and 7-year-olds to a teen program with hands-on animal training instruction. The zoo, which is gradually moving away from outdated enclosed exhibits, unveiled its open-air Amazon's Edge exhibit last year and recently added a new rain-forest conservation area, which is home to sloth, tamarins and iguanas.
Zoo Camp is administered by the community services departments at five area community colleges. Call the zoo education department for details.
Santa Ana Zoo, 1801 E. Chestnut Ave., Santa Ana. (714) 836-4000. *
The San Diego Wild Animal Park introduced a program this spring that is as close as most kids will ever get to a slumber party in the wild. For children age 8 and up, the "Roar and Snore Camping Safari" is a one-night sleep-over program that features naturalist-led twilight and early morning nature hikes, campfire activities and live animal presentations. Campers sleep in tents on a hilltop overlooking the preserve.
"Roar and Snore" programs are held Friday and Saturday nights through Oct. 29. Price includes meals, use of camping equipment and one-day admission to the park. Fee: $70 for adults; $55 for children age 8 to 11.
San Diego Wild Animal Park, 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido. (619) 738-5049. *
The San Diego Zoo hosts an overnight program similar to the one at the Wild Animal Park. The "Safari Sleepover" program includes animal encounters, African storytelling and a twilight bus tour of the zoo. The program is sold out for the summer, but it will be repeated in October.
Both the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park offer day camp programs, beginning in June, for youths entering grades 1 through 12 in the fall. Half-day sessions are available in one-, three- or five-day packages; rates begin at $20 per day. Advance registration by mail only.
San Diego Zoo, 2920 Zoo Drive (in Balboa Park), San Diego. (619) 236-0163.
FOR SPECIAL NEEDS
Although general resident camps aren't listed here, it's worthwhile to note a few that serve children with special concerns.
The Orange County Chapter of the American Diabetes Assn. offers Camp Chinook in the San Bernardino Mountains for children age 7 to 16 with diabetes. Features include the usual roundup of outdoor sports, crafts, et al., as well as full medical staff and practical how-to sessions on dealing with diabetes. Fee: $250 to $550. Call (714) 662-7940 or (800) 828-8293.
The Crippled Children's Society has two resident camps serving children age 7 and up with physical and developmental disabilities: Camp Paivika in Crestline and Camp Joan Mier in Malibu. Fee: based on ability to pay. Call (213) 874-3300, extensions 318, 319 or 320.
Southern California Children's Cancer Services hosts Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times in Idyllwild. Sessions are open to those age 7 to 18 with cancer. Family camps for infants through age 6 are also offered, as is a separate program for young adults. Free. Call (310) 476-8488.
Children's Hospital of Orange County's social service department is a source for more information on special camps, as is the ACA directory. Call CHOC at (714) 532-8521.
MORE KID STUFF
IN COSTA MESA: WORLD MUSIC CONCERT
An adaptation of Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" for harp and orchestra headlines an international family concert presented by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, May 21, at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Tickets $8 to $10. (714) 740-2000.
IN ANAHEIM: SESAME STREET LIVE
Big Bird, Ernie, Bert and Betty Lou have packed their bags and are headed for the Anaheim Pond today, May 19, through Sunday, May 22. They can be seen in "When I Grow Up," a high-volume, high-action stage show for preschoolers on up. Tickets $10.50 to $17. (714) 740-2000.
IN LONG BEACH: CRAIG 'N CONCERT
Kids know him as the lead guy in the children's pop music group Craig 'n Company. But Craig Taubman has a parallel career, writing and performing pop and rock tunes based on Jewish teachings. He'll perform Sunday, May 22, at Temple Israel, 3538 E. 3rd St. Tickets $6 to $8. (310) 434-0996.