Summer camps for future STEM superstars, mini rockers, creatives, and more

Parents of Tampa Bay: It’s time to drop everything and sign your kids up for summer camps that they’ll still be talking about when school starts again in Fall 2021.

After so many months staring at computer screens (and masking up when they are allowed to leave home), our kids are craving summer camp experiences like none before. Sure -- build in some time for relaxation, playing in the back yard, and watching videos. But thanks to a plethora of organized camp options available in the Tampa Bay Area, it’s easy to see how this summer break could become a special one to remember.

Here are some local summer camp options you may want to consider (readers can list additional choices in the Facebook comments section below the story.)

Art camps

Creative Pinellas Summer Camp Grants – Before we examine some of the camps available in the Tampa Bay Area, these grants must be shared. Kids ages 5-18 who receive reduced or free lunch, attend a Title 1 school or reside in certain locations can attend certain nonprofit Pinellas County summer camp programs free of charge. To learn if your child is eligible, simply visit the website. If approved, Creative Pinellas will email you. Then it’s simple to register for camp and enjoy! 

School of Rock -- Rock on, all you mini Axel Roses and Joan Jetts. The School of Rock St. Petersburg and Tampa locations can mold a child into a performance superstar (or at least give them the confidence to get on stage and try).  Pop Punk, 21st Century Modern Rock, and Rock 101 are program highlights.

Tampa Museum of Art -- Is your little one a constant doodler? Play-Doh sculptor of master proportions? Check out the Tampa Museum of Art’s full and half-day sessions. Three locations exist.

South Tampa Center for the Arts -- Mold a mini thespian who knows all the words to Hamilton by sending him/her to this camp, which also offers weeks for those who love The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow (Annie theme), Shrek the Musical, and more. 

The James Museum -- Creators find inspiration galore during sessions like Upcycled Art. Kids are encouraged to ‘get messy’ and explore various art-making processes. Sessions are separated into AM camp and PM camp. 

American Stage -- This year’s summer camp is based at Admiral Farragut Academy. It’s a new location with the same creative themes the mini devotees of American Stage have come to expect: Muppet Mayem, Hip Hop Songs for Kids, and Around the World: Dance & Shout included.

St. Pete Music, Acting and Dance -- COVID precautions are a standby for the studio affectionately called MAD; the banner picture on the summer camp website features masked actors and actresses. This summer, MAD plans to host most classes at Shorecrest Preparatory School; Teen Beach Musical members will spend time rehearsing elsewhere.

The Dali Museum -- Searching for a surreal summer for your future art critic? At the Dali Museum summer camp, junior docents don’t just create art -- they learn how to interpret and explain it. Online and in-person camps are available this year.

PCS Summer Art Camps -- Students who attend these camps can thank the Pinellas County Schools Arts Referendum for the price tag: free. Beginning with 4th graders all the way through high school seniors, visual, digital, and virtual camps are available and are capped at 30 students per session. Hurry and apply: the deadline is April 30.

Tampa Theatre -- Kids from 8 to 18 can enroll in film camp this summer to learn and experience the "creative process of digital filmmaking, from brainstorming, storyboarding, and scriptwriting to filming, lighting, and editing.''

STEM camps

Drobots Company -- Drone racing galore takes STEM camp to new heights at Drobots Summer Camp held at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg. Camp counselors are conscious of screen time and practical application, so your child won’t spend hours staring at a laptop. Instead, they’ll be building and racing those buzzy little robots with wings for a drone-tastic technology experience.

Snapology -- It’s a summer based in Legos, robotics, and much more at Snapology camps, hosted at multiple locations in the Tampa Bay area. Check out creative mashups like Snapology Pokemania and Mining & Crafting Camp, Snapology Robotics and Gamebots, Robotics and Ninjas. 

St. Pete Makers -- Local artists and makers will guide kids through 3-D printing and modeling, electronic design, woodworking, and more. This camp has a decidedly local mojo, infusing the spirit of St. Petersburg through all mediums. 

MOSI Tampa -- MOSI’s Summer Science Camps bring Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) alive through hands-on experiments and building projects. "Real science coupled with exciting experiments, simulations, explorations, and inventions,'' their website promises for kids pre-K to teens.

Tampa Bay History Center -- Kids ages 7 to 11 can get introduced to the sciences of archeology and paleontology in summer adventure camps. Campers get hands-on with history through games, crafts, activities, gallery time, and guest speakers.

Outdoorsy experiences

Boyd Hill -- Yes, the camp unofficially declared The Most Wanted Bay Area Camp of All Time filled up in less than five minutes, but Boyd Hill has more than the ever-popular Pioneer Camp in its scheduling arsenal this year. Send that kid who’s always stuffing beetles in his pockets to Bug Camp. Satisfy a love of slithery things with the Snakes of the Sunshine State or impart some real-life knowledge with the Surviving in the Wild week. Your future Bear Grylls will thank you. 

Florida Outdoor Adventure -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission partners with the YMCA of St. Petersburg to offer all things outdoor -- and it’s billed as a true adventure. Paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, a dolphin tour, and more make up this decidedly swimsuit-forward session. Two weeks are available.

Florida Fantasy Fishing Camp -- Rods and reels and fish scales abound. Inshore and outshore fishing opportunities are available at this camp, which is based out of Tampa and offers day and overnight sessions. Guided fishing trips and instruction regarding knot tying, cast netting and more fill the daily schedule.

St. Petersburg Sailing Center -- Cue the iconic Styx song and drop those kids off with a towel or three: the St. Petersburg Sailing Center still has spots open for little sailors. The youngest, deemed Harbor Mice, learn the ins and outs of sailing, while the older, more experienced kids prepare for their next regatta.

TSS Youth Sailing -- The Tampa Sailing Squadron offers summer sailing classes for youth ages 7-17 of all skill levels. The classes are held at the Apollo Beach host organization and are led by U.S. Sailing certified instructors.

Davis Island Youth Sailing Foundation --  Future ship captains, including fair-weather beginners, are encouraged to take lessons to "promote the sport of sailing, encourage independence, self-reliance, and good character.''

Clearwater Marine Aquarium -- Your future marine biologist will nod a definitive YES at the mere name of this camp: Summer Camp With Winter and Hope. Who doesn’t want to go camping with two dolphins (and famous dolphins at that)? Snorkeling, kayaking, and learning more about their marine friends sounds like a week to remember.

ZooTampa -- Get up and close to exotic animals from around the world during a wild summer of camps for kids in pre-K through eighth grade. Attend just for fun and "learn from professionals what it takes to become a zookeeper, veterinarian, or animal trainer.''

Avalon Stables -- Register your horse lover for a week or even a single day at this equine camp and expect to hear a play-by-play of grooming and riding upon pickup. Sessions are kept small and there are plenty of weeks to choose among; plus, single-day enrollment is available.

Skate Camp -- Future Tony Hawks can learn board fundamentals at this course, offered by the Hillsborough County at Providence Skate Park in Riverview. Safety and course etiquette are imparted. St. Pete kids may opt for the closer School of Skatin sessions. Don’t forget to pack the knee pads and a helmet.

Eco-Adventure Camp -- Hillsborough County offers outdoor camps for kids ages 9 to 12 who like to get outside and get dirty. Adventures are supervised, of course, in Riverview and Carrollwood, but offer what youthful participants make of them.

Camp Osprey -- A camp named after a glorious bird has to be outdoors, right? And Camp Osprey, with its promise of recreation, adventure, and exploration is just that. Day and overnight campers zipline, ride horses and roast the ubiquitous marshmallows around a campfire. Not required but suggested? Perhaps teach your child Kum ba Yah before Day One. Just a thought.

Many more camps -- way too many to be listed here -- are offered by local YMCAs and YWCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, Scouting groups, public and private schools, Parks & Recreation departments in cities and municipalities (see what the City of Tampa and the City of Clearwater are offering, for example), and local churches and other places of worship. Look around in your neighborhood and ask other parents and teachers for help if you can't find them.

Don't see your favorite camp on this list? Add it in the Facebook comments section below. 

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Read more articles by Amy Hammond.

Amy Hammond is a freelance writer and author of children’s books that encourage the next generation to attend college. When not indoctrinating youth about the necessity of higher education, she enjoys exploring the paradise that is her St. Petersburg home. She holds a degree in Public Relations from the University of Florida and a Masters in Secondary English Education from the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared in such venues as the Tampa Bay Times. Children’s Book Titles by Amy Hammond include: When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Gator; When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a ‘Nole; When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Bull; When I Grow Up, I’m Bama Bound; When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Tiger.