Here comes summer, and with it those camps with cute Indian names and counselors only slightly older than your kids' pals.
But hey, this is the '80s: Minnehaha has given way to Mime-and-Muse, Monsters Remembered -- or Megamemory.
Guaranteed to take the byte out of learning, computer camps offer low-key brushes with the languages of the future -- BASIC, Pascal, LOGO. For some children the future has already arrived, says Karen Rosenbaum, who runs The Computer Camp at Mount Vernon College in the District.
"Fifteen years ago," she says, "a computer expert was a man in a three-piece suit from IBM. Five years ago, it was a fellow from college in a flannel shirt and jeans. But today, a computer expert wears a T-shirt and has skinned knees and freckles."
Creating such experts is the focus of her camp, which combines a half-day of sports -- soccer, tennis, swimming, softball, track, gymnastics and something called Ultimate Frisbee -- with a half-day in front of the terminal. Other camps -- such as Computers and the Arts in Bethesda -- teach computer-generated music and graphics along with the math skills necessary to make them work.
But maybe you don't want your kid to be a computer expert -- maybe you want something a little more dramatic. For you, there are theater camps all around Washington -- offered by recreation departments, volunteers and professional schools. Two of the best-known and most respected are in McLean and Montgomery County, which has camps and classes for literally everyone. ("We'll probably teach about a thousand kids this summer," says a spokesman). Personnel from the Roundhouse Theater strengthen the Montgomery County program, while McLean brings in outside help from theaters downtown and in New York (such as Bob Kelly -- the man who did Elizabeth Taylor's makeup in "Little Foxes").
One Montgomery County camp -- a day camp for kids entering the fourth through seventh grades this fall -- lets them write their own musical, with the help of composer Hampton King from the Harlequin Theater and a comedy writer, Michael Higgins, who has written and performed for HBO. Younger children can combine theater and crafts in Montgomery, dividing their time among mime, music, pottery, crafts, improvisation and so on, while teenagers can go to a resident camp in Frederick to produce a play.
Then, for Something Completely Different, there's the dinosaur camp. A week-long, half-day experience for nine- to 12-year-olds, "Dinosaurs" will lean on the Smithsonian's resources -- the Dinosaur Hall, the Zoo, the Naturalist Center -- and the campers, called "young paleontologists" by a generous brochure-writer, will "re-examine the dinosaur age," sketching the prehistoric beings and figuring out their environment, appearance and "lifestyle." Were dinosaurs laid-back beings? Type-A creatures?
If your kid doesn't care, perhaps he's more interested in "Castles, Knights and Ladies," a summer camp offered by the Smithsonian where 10- to 13-year-olds can design a castle, construct stained-glass windows and learn medieval manners, stories and history.
The Audubon Society will bring campers back into the '80s with half-day camps on solar energy or photography as well as their traditional nature programs at the society's 40-acre wooded preserve in Chevy Chase. CAMPS APLENTY Here are details on the above camps along with some others, to give you a feel for the kinds of programs available this season: COMPUTER CAMPS Check with your local school system first to see if a summer-school program in computing is offered. Computer camps are a new concept, and few in the area have any sort of track record. The following samples employ experienced computer teachers to design the curriculum: THE COMPUTER CAMP -- Mount Vernon College in Northwest Washington on Foxhall Road. For children ages seven-16, four two-week sessions from June 24 through August 19 from 9 to 3:30 daily; each session costs $300. The day is split between guided work on games, graphics, programming and word processing in BASIC, LOGO and Pascal; and sports -- soccer, softball, basketball, track, tennis, aerobic dance, wrestling, gymnastics and Ultimate Frisbee. The curriculum is designed by two members of the University of Maryland's computer science department and groups children by ability; sports are headed by Mount Vernon's sports director. Member of the American Camping Association. Call Dr. Karen Rosenbaum, director, 241-5542. COMPUTERS AND THE ARTS -- Held at the French International School, 9600 Forest Road, Bethesda, near the YMCA. For children six to 14, with younger children learning LOGO (a graphic language developed at MIT to teach the principles of math to young children), and older kids doing BASIC. Children are grouped by ability and the curriculum was developed by the Electronic Learning Facilitators of Bethesda, a 21/2-year-old firm specializing in teaching computing. Music and arts activities are also offered -- some on the computers -- and time is available each day at the YMCA for tennis, swimming, soccer or volleyball. Extended-day hours available at extra cost. The camp runs June 20 to July 29 in two-week sessions, with each session costing $300. Call 493-9696. COMPUTER SUMMER WORKSHOPS -- At the Capital Children's Museum, D.C., four one-week sessions from 9 to noon, for eight to 15; each session is $100, $90 for members. Eight- to 11-year-olds will learn graphics and sound- creation in PILOT, an Atari language; 12- to 15-year-olds will learn BASIC on the Atari 800. Both ages will get an introduction to LOGO. Sessions begin June 13. For more information, call 543-8600 and ask for the public programs department. THEATER CAMPS Nearly every county around Washington has a summer theater camp for kids. Call your local recreation department for more information. Two of the best programs are offered in McLean and in Montgomery County. McLEAN For information on these McLean camps, call 790-9248. McLEAN THEATER WORKSHOP -- McLean Community Center, June 27 to July 31, 9:30 to 4, $265 local, $295 non- local. Kids from ninth grade to recent high-school graduates are invited to audition for this rigorous camp; auditions should include two prepared pieces -- one light, one serious. Each day, campers receive instruction in movement, voice, acting, dancing or technical work, with guest lectures on stage combat ("It's just what you think," says a spokesman) by Stephen White, a professional choreographer; on makeup by New York makeup artist Bob Kelly; and on production by David Young, who puts on the American College Theater Festival in the Kennedy Center. Workshop participants will go to at least one professional performance and produce a play of their own. "CREATIVE DRAMA" -- Also in McLean, fourth- through seventh-graders can attend a five-week, half-day drama camp, including sensory awareness, improvisation, stories, puppetry, music, dance, mime, costumes and masks, with a presentation at the end, for $95 (local) and $120 (nonlocal). MONTGOMERY COUNTY For information on the following Montgomery County programs, call 468-4172. ARTS DAY CAMP -- In Potomac or Bethesda, two-week sessions for first- to sixth-graders, 9:30 to 3, for $86 per session. Combining theater and craft arts. MUSICAL THEATER DAY CAMP -- Three-week, half-day sessions for fourth- to seventh-graders in Potomac, Bethesda, Silver Spring, Aspen Hill or Kensington, for $86 per session. Working with a professional composer and playwright, the kids will write and perfo advanced level of a six- week, four-times-per-week camp in Bethesda, Silver Spring or Rockville for $165. Participants, supervised by staff of the Roundhouse Theater, will put on a studio production. SUMMER MUSICAL -- Preschool through adults will do an original musical written by the Harlequin Theater's Hampton King in the Roundhouse Theater. Rehearsals are four times per week, including evenings and weekends in July and August. Cost: $55. SMITHSONIAN CAMPS This year, the Smithsonian Associates are offering several one- to two-week, half-day sessions in July and August for $70 (members), $80 (non-members) per week. Eleven camps in all will run, including the following. For more information, call 357-3030. SPACE COMICS -- Ten-to 15-year-olds will create space cartoons forecasting what life and travel in space might be like in the 21st century. (One week). DINOSAURS -- For nine- to 12-year-olds, a re-examination of the dinosaur age. (One week). CASTLES, KNIGHTS AND LADIES -- For 10-to 13-year-olds, an exploration of medieval life. (Two weeks). AUDUBON SOCIETY CAMPS The Audubon Society offers many classes at Woodend, its 40-acre preserve at 8940 Jones Mill Road in Chevy Chase. Call 652-5964 for more information on any of their nine-day classes, including: SUN ENERGY -- Six-and seven-year-olds will learn about solar power through sun-dried foods, solar radiation and building a solar still. Session starts July 19; members $78, non-members $88. EYES, IMAGES & LENSES -- Eight- through 10-year-olds will explore Woodend with cameras and learn photography and printing. Starts July 19; members $50; non-members $60.