Harford County youngsters will wind through mazes, create sound effects for a movie scene, dig for fossils, explore the bay in a dredging boat and trek across Maryland.
These diverse activities are among the offerings of area summer camps that open this week. This year's roster includes new camps as well as new activities for some existing camps. And although some programs have plenty of openings, others are completely booked.
Participation in camps offered by the county Department of Parks and Recreation is on the rise, mainly because of the growing diversity of activities, said Craig Lanphear, director of Swan Harbor Farm in Havre de Grace, where many of the county-run camps are located.
"We offer some pretty unique camps," said Lanphear. "Parents and kids are looking for something other than sports camps, and we offer that and at an inexpensive price."
The parks and recreation camps cost between $90 and $200 for one-week programs, while some private camps cost several hundred dollars.
Lanphear said the art camp gives kids a chance to do indoor and outdoor work.
"Kids attending our art camp will do five days of art," said Lanphear. "They may do painting and sculpture and drawing and all sorts of mediums. We have more than 500 acres here the camps can utilize."
For young adventurers, several nature camps are on the schedule.
"On the first day of the nature camp the kids dig for fossils, and then the second and third day deals with handling snakes and animals of the wilds. They end with two days of kayaking and canoeing," said Bob Chance, director of nature camps at Swan Harbor.
Camps geared toward excitement and adventure are in high demand, said Jim Rhodes, coordinator of the Above and Beyond summer camp at Harford Glen. That camp fills quickly today, but it didn't start out that way.
"Six years ago, when we first offered our camps, we couldn't get enough kids for one session," said Rhodes. "People had to get to know the program; now we don't even advertise the camp. ... The high-rope element of the camp keeps the kids coming back for more. The kids get to climb up about 30 feet in the air."
To appeal to the scientific mind, the National Inventors Hall of Fame sponsors Camp Invention.
Director Helen Campbell said the camp is offered throughout Maryland between June 27 and Aug. 12, with Harford's version scheduled for July 25-29 at Youth's Benefit Elementary School and Aug. 1-5 at Forest Hill Elementary.
"The kids use their math and science knowledge to do hands-on projects," Campbell said. "It's a really popular program."
The projects include creating a movie scene and designing a video game using a maze concept.
"The kids learn about sound and special effects and put together their own movie scene," said Campbell. "We have them draw a design for their video game. They make an ad for it to market it and have to explain the concept and show how it works."
To add flair to an outdoor camp, the skipjack Martha Lewis is offering Treasure Hunters, a new camp for children ages 6 to 10. The first session is Friday and includes a two-hour boat excursion from Tydings Park in Havre de Grace. During the trip, youngsters will read maps and navigate the boat in search of buried treasure.
Other camps catering to the young camper are offered at the Eden Mill Nature Center in Pylesville. In addition to its annual summer programs, the center will offer one-day minicamps called Babes in the Woods for preschoolers.
"The kids explore nature with hands-on activities," said Janice Muscella, camp administrator. "They may study things like birds, or insects or the weather."
Genesee Valley Outdoor Adventure Camps is offering a new camp this year for youngsters ages 13 to 17. Road Through Maryland, an overnight camp to run Aug. 14-19, includes a hike from Pennsylvania to Harper's Ferry, W.Va. The cost is $650.
Genesee also offers a weeklong camp three times during the summer. "The kids get to be on a working farm and do things like swim in ponds and do rock-climbing on a wall in a barn," said camp director Jennifer Bernhard.
These recreation councils have more information on summer camps:
Aberdeen Board of Parks & Recreation: 410-939-6767
Bel Air Recreation Committee: 410-638-3528
Churchville Recreation Council: 410-638-3853
Dublin-Darlington & Havre de Grace Recreation Committee: 410-273-5623
Eden Mill Nature Center: 410-836-3050
Edgewood Recreation Council: 410-612-1606
Emmorton Recreation Council: 410-638-3988
Fallston Recreation Council: 410-638-3559
Forest Hill, Havre de Grace, Hickory/ Fountain Green & North Harford: 410-638-3616
Jarrettsville & Norrisville Recreation Council: 410-692-7820
Joppatowne Recreation Council: 410-612-1608
Otter Point Creek Alliance: 410-612-1688