Drop-In Camps



Courtesy of Marisa Bean

While spending the summer going to the beach or the park sounds perfect right now, I know that there will be weeks when I won’t feel like playing the role of cruise director and I’ll need to send the kids off to camp. Luckily, there are a bunch of camps that still have spots open for non-planners like me! Here are some great ones that take last minute sign-ups.

Fearless Innovation at Galileo

It’s been said that kids these days don’t know how to fail. School can teach them that failure is wrong and as a result, kids get upset if they try something that doesn’t immediately work. At Galileo camps, failure is not seen as a negative but rather a critical and important part of the design process.

Starting with the first Galileo camp in 2002 in Palo Alto, founder Glen Trip sought to introduce a new approach to learning in a fearless and creative way. Working with the Stanford d.school, he developed what is called the Galileo Innovation Approach, or “GIA.” According to Galileo’s Head of Marketing, Summer Erickson, the GIA is “a unique innovation process grounded in the belief that innovation ability is a skill that can be developed, that you don’t have to be born a natural innovator.”

With more than 40 Bay Area locations, there is likely a Galileo camp close to your neighborhood. Camp Galileo is for the younger campers – those entering pre-K through fifth grade. Each week combines art, science, outdoor activities (and tons of fun!) with one of four themes, including Galileo Amusement Park and African Safari.

At Galileo Summer Quest, older kids through eighth grade choose from among 14 majors to focus on for the week. A new major this year is YouTube Producers, where kids learn steps to create a YouTube channel on a subject of their choice.

“At Galileo, we create an environment where failure is expected and celebrated and considered a part of the natural process of innovating,” says Erickson. “The hope is that when the kids return to school . . . they have a tenacity and a persistence that they may not have had before coming to Galileo.”  galileo-camps.com.

Outdoor Nature Exploration

If your summer goal is to get the kids outside and away from the screens, BEan in Nature should be on your list. Founder Marisa Bean developed this camp that takes kids ages 5 ½ through 14 to South Bay parks and teaches them outdoor survival skills with an experiential, hands-on learning approach. A week of camp includes nature awareness games and developing skills like fire-making, cooking over fire, bow-making and woodworking.

Camp weeks have different themes; Ancestral Survival Skills camp for ages 7-14 is the most popular. During this week, campers learn everything from shelter building to bird language to edible and medicinal plant identification. There is a camp just for girls – Girls Ancestral Skills and Wild Crafts Camp.

“With this ability to be out and immersed in nature, children develop a strong sense of self and a natural love of science,” Bean says. “We are growing Earth stewards which is so imperative in this time with the Earth’s fragile ecology.” beaninnature.com.

Take Tech to a New Level

Silicon Valley is home to iD Tech – now the largest tech camp in the United States with more than 150 locations. To emphasize the importance of higher education, local Bay Area colleges like Stanford, San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley and Santa Clara University host iD Tech camps each summer for kids ages 6 to 18. An eight to one ratio of kids to instructors allows campers to receive the personalized instruction that makes the summer experience rewarding.

With more than 60 courses, there’s always something new to explore. This year, iD Tech is offering a Virtual Reality course for kids ages 13 to 17. They will develop all sorts of virtual reality skills , such as building levels and environments out of geometry. But it’s not just the computer skills that kids gain; they take home critical thinking, problem solving and presentation skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

With a mother-daughter team as iD Tech’s founders, there’s also a focus on empowering the next generation of women in STEM. Alexa Café – iD Tech’s girls-only program – does just that. In addition to learning the tech skills that other iD Tech camps offer, Alexa Café girls (ages 10 to 15) gain leadership, entrepreneurship and social activism skills as they learn from female faculty who have worked in the tech industry. idtech.com.

Free-Form Fun at Steve & Kate’s Camp

Perfect for the parent procrastinators, Steve & Kate’s Camp offers a drop-in model that is uncommon in summer camps. Parents buy day passes and can choose to send their kids to Steve & Kate’s without having to provide any advance notice. This offers flexibility of having a day or two of camp in one week and also allows kids to try out the program before committing. The more day passes you buy, the lower the daily rate and any unused passes are refunded. Plus, you don’t even have to pack a lunch as one is provided. Easy!

Steve & Kate’s is all about choice – even for the campers. With programs like robotics, music, bread-making, coding and fashion, campers can rotate to a new program as often as they like or stick with one for the whole day. Each camp day also includes a special activity, such as  inflatable hamster balls or a slip and slide. There are multiple locations throughout the Bay Area. steveandkatescamp.com.

Don’t get discouraged if your summer plans aren’t locked in! There’s still plenty of great summer camp opportunities.

 Kate Loweth is a calendar editor at Bay Area Parent.

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