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When the final dismissal bell rings through the halls and signals the end of the school year, it also marks the beginning of summer camps and activities for students. Several such opportunities for summer engagements are available in the Eldersburg and Sykesville areas, from reading programs to outdoor adventures.

Summer programs at the library

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People of all ages can take part in this year's Summer Reading Club at the Eldersburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library, at 6400 Hemlock Drive.

The club has two sections for children: Every Hero Has a Story is for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, and Unmask! is designed for young people in grades six through 12. Both themes are based on superheroes, but the prizes children can win are different. The reading program designed for adults, called Escape the Ordinary, is also superhero-themed and includes prizes.

For each book children read, they receive a raffle ticket for prizes. For children in the youngest section, prizes range from gift cards for Toys "R" Us and GameStop, to outdoor water games. For children in sixth grade and older, prizes are a Kindle Fire and a variety of gift cards, including ones for iTunes, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Panera, and Olive Garden. Children keep track of the books they have read either on paper or via electronic log.

Participants are able to choose their own reading materials, but the library offers a list of suggested titles on its website at library.carr.org.

Angie Knight, children's services supervisor for the Eldersburg branch, said the superhero theme emphasizes teachers, firefighters and police officers, who might not be traditional superheroes, but are still people who make a difference.

"It stresses that everybody can be a hero," Knight said.

Tech Bloc, another summer program at the library that is separate from the summer reading club, emphasizes technology in a four-day series that is offered twice, from June 22 to 25 and Aug. 10 to 13, Knight said. Each session meets from 2 to 4 p.m. and is for children 11 to 17. As part of the program, participants will learn how to use the library's new 3-D printer and be able to print their own digital creations in 3-D form, said Jen Bishop, library associate for the Eldersburg branch.

"Instead of them being consumers of technology, we want them to see technology as tools for innovation," Bishop said.

Tech Bloc participants will also be using a computing program called Raspberry Pi, which is a circuit board about the size of a credit card, Bishop said. Raspberry Pi is essentially a small, basic computer, Bishop said, but without the appearance of a finished computer. All of the inner workings of the computer are exposed so children will be able to see how it works.

Raspberry Pi is meant to teach basic coding through Minecraft, a digital game that creates a virtual world. Tech Bloc participants will learn how to create codes to perform actions on Minecraft that would usually be done with the touch of a button, Bishop said.

"It's a way to learn programming skills but also in a fun way," Bishop said.

There are only 12 spots available for each section of Tech Bloc, which is free, so registration on the library's website is required. For the June session, registration began June 8 and for the August session registration begins July 27. Registration for both sessions is available until the day it starts, permitting there are still available spots.

The summer reading club is a system-wide event through the Carroll County Public Library, but specific programs like Tech Bloc are only offered at certain library branches. For information or to register, visit http://library.carr.org/about/eldersburg.asp.

Summer Camps at Merritt Athletic Clubs

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Merritt Athletic Clubs, at 1388 Progress Way in Eldersburg, offers 11 weeks of weeklong camps beginning June 15. Each of the camps being offered specializes in different activities and themes, including sports, aquatics, art, dance, and even American Girl dolls, Harry Potter and zoo animals, Sherri Lively, camp director, said.

The most popular camp is one based on the TV show "The Amazing Race," Lively said. During this camp, participants are broken into teams and must go through obstacles and challenges related to different countries.

"It's kind of like a 'Survivor' challenge but at a kid level," Lively said.

The clubs' Adventure camp, for children ages 9 to 14, gives campers the opportunity to visit the National Zoo and tour the monuments in Washington, D.C, as well as take a trip to Terrapin Adventures at Historic Savage Mill in Savage, where they can participate in activities such as zip lining.

Other activities for Adventure camp include canoeing, hiking and geocaching — a form of treasure hunting.

For Merritt Athletic Clubs members, participation in the Adventure camp is $449; for nonmembers, it is $499. Other camps offered range from $150 to $499 depending on the kind of camp and whether it runs for full or half days.

Information and registration packets for all of Merritt Athletic Clubs' camps can be found at http://www.merrittclubs.com but must be turned into the Merritt Athletic Clubs' physical location in Eldersburg. Registration information needs to be submitted a week before the desired camp, but two weeks is preferred.

Summer Camps at ABC Care

ABC Care at 2815 Patapsco Road, Finksburg, offers two week-long camps for children: the Eldersburg Adventure Camp at Piney Run Park from June 15 to Aug. 21 and Piney Run Nature Camp from June 24 to 28. The camps are identical except the nature camp does not offer field trips on Tuesdays and Thursdays, said Sylvia Nunnelee, senior manager at ABC Care in Eldersburg. Both camps are for children kindergarten through eighth grade and run from 7 a.m. to 6:15 p.m each day. Both are held at Piney Run Park, at 30 Martz Road in Sykesville, where ABC Care rents a pavilion.

ABC Care fuses technology and nature together for both of its camps, Nunnelee said.

"We are not an academic camp, but all of our activities have learning components," she said.

Every Monday for both camps is centered around a Science, Technology, Electronics, Mathematics, or STEM, project that uses technology and nature, Nunnelee said. Last year campers made solar s'mores using a box that reflects sunlight and captures heat to cook marshmallows. Other projects from previous camps have been making sundials and creating marble roller coasters, Nunnelee said.

But beyond opportunities for learning, Nunnelee said the camps provide the chance for kids to make connections with peers and staff members.

"Probably what they like most are the relationships they build with other kids and our staffers," she said.

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The Eldersburg Adventure Camp at Piney Run Park ranges from $160 to $215 and the Piney Run Nature Camp ranges from $150 to $199 depending on the number of days children attend the camp. For siblings, there is a $10 discount for one of the children registered. Information and registration packets can be found online at abccareinc.com but must be emailed to abccare@abccareinc.com or mailed to ABC Care in Sykesville. Registration information needs to be submitted two weeks before the desired week of camp.

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