14NEWS Special Report: Summer Camp

Published: May. 23, 2017 at 2:01 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2017 at 10:01 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - School bells rang out for the last time this academic year.  Now, an estimated 10 million kids in the US are turning their eyes to summer camp.

Millions more won't be going, and some parents say, it's because camp is too expensive.

The camps we checked out ranged from free to more than $150 a day.  Camp directors explained, how much you pay, depends on what you want in a camp. Week-long, all-inclusive camps usually cost more than short, workshop style camps that meet a few times a week.

Even the most expensive camps still cost a fraction of what many families fork over to belong to traveling dance and sports teams.

Camp Carson Executive Director Mark Scoular says, "We definitely recognize there are lots of choices you make in life.  If you look at the travel soccer weekend, just for the weekend, that's $400. And you got 4 or 5 of them. Sports activities are expensive.  Camp?  Yeah, we do fall in that category."

Before you even choose a camp, you need a taste of what's out there, and at this point, what's still available.  We sampled a handful of Tri-State camps that still have openings,  including one for kids so young, chances are, you didn't even know it was an option.

It's Computer Coding Basics for preschoolers at Evansville Day School.

"This is very basic robotics. Robotics is all about coding," Teacher Katie Bockting explained, "This is the code, the language this robot speaks.  This is how you talk to it."

Teacher Katie Bockting says, her own research has shown coding in early childhood is as important as pre-literacy, pre-math, and pre-writing skills kids are already learning.

In this camp, kids will learn sequencing and cause-and-effect by programming Bee-Bots and Dash & Dots robots.  They're also tackling basic HTML coding.

Switching gears, literally, we're talking mechanical engineering now, plus electrical engineering, math, Science, technology, and computer science.

This is UE's STEM camp, with whole weeks carved out just for middle and high school girls.

As UE Summer Camp Coordinator Kim Higgins tells us, girls are dramatically under-represented in these fields, professionally.

She told us, "We have in-class session with professors. We take them out to places in industry to see how say, for instance, a place like Toyota works, not just mechanical engineering wise, but electrical."

UE's camps are all-inclusive, sleep-away camps and function like a college experience.

The middle school camp is filled, but there's still room in the high school group.

It runs from June 18-23. The cost is $500 per girl.  Higgins says some of their costs are supplemented from an Indiana space grants and grants from the Alcoa Foundation.

She also says students who complete the camp qualify for a $1,250 yearly scholarship to the University of Evansville, which is worth $5,000 over 4 years.

If you're looking for more of a "play hard all day, collapse in your bunk after campfire" kind of camp, there's a 300 acre one right in Gibson County.  It's the YMCA's, Camp Carson.

Executive Director Mark Scoular told us campers come thinking they're getting away to have fun, but much later, they realize how many real life skills they picked up.

He says, "I want you as a kid to feel empowered to take on all the challenges the world throws at you.  That you're ready to realize, 'Hey, I didn't think I could do the Alpine tower, but I did it.  This math problem at school?  It might be the bear of me, but I'm gonna get there.'  We're teaching those kinds of skills."

As for the cost?  Camp Carson ranges from $360 for half a week, reserved for the youngest campers, to as low as $670 for a full week, per child.

Scoular explains, "There are also scholarships.  If you've never been plugged in with camp before, one of our alums says, 'I believe this is a place that once you see the value in it.  It's more than child care or day care.  It's a life changing experience,' and he really believes that once you see the value in it, you'll know that you want to make it work.  And he has an opportunity where he will sponsor the first 50% of the cost.  In return, we're looking for the kids to have good citizenship in school, maintain a C or above, 5 hours of community service, and as short paragraph on why they want to do camp."

Camp Carson also offers the free weeklong camp for kids with parents serving in the military.  They also offer a free camp through Former Pro Football Player Jay Cutler's foundation for kids with Type 1 Diabetes.

There are hundreds of options: sports, music, art, theater, and church camps, just to name a few.

When UE Chaplain Tammy Gieselman heard about our feature on camps, she wanted the chance to tell us about "Open Table," and the surprise awaiting students.

She said, "Open Table is fully funded by a Lilly Endowment. Student's stay on campus for a week and do "theology" and have fun! All students get an iPad mini to take home after the week has concluded."

So far, that's the only camp we've found where kids get to keep the technology they use during camp.

If your students likes technology and robotics are their thing, there's a free camp for middle school kids in Henderson, sponsored by Cadet Cafe at North Middle School.  This camp runs most of June, meeting weekdays from 8 am to noon (breakfast and lunch provided).  Call 270-831-5060 for more information.

And if the cost of the camp is the biggest hurdle, and you want a slee-away camp, you should check out Camp Reveal in Vanderburgh County.  This camp is run by the Evansville Rescue Mission, offering half-week sessions at sleep-away camp, for free.

All the camps offer something slightly different, and at different costs.

So, instead of the camp being "out of the question" for your family budget,  Scoular says, you might want to ask yourself, which camp is the best all-around fit?

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