Summer day camps thrive in Dakota County

  • Article by: LIZ ROLFSMEIER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 10, 2014 - 2:34 PM

They offer children the chance to write songs about animals, build robots or experience life as lived by kids of the past.


Instructor Aric Bieganek, of St. Louis Park, worked with a student during a MacPhail songwriting camp in 2013.

Photo: Photo courtesy of MacPhail Center for Music,

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Dropped the ball on registering for summer camps? There are still slots open in many Dakota County day camps — with activities ranging from songwriting at the zoo to building solar-powered robots, and from mountain biking to rock picking on a 1940s farm.

Diane Klinefelter, director of environmental education at Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul, said the center has incorporated more opportunities for middle-school kids. From June 23-26, during the “Nature Lost and Found” and “Get Muddy!” camps, naturalists will lead 6th- to 8th-graders in activities including geocaching and nature journaling.

Kids in grades 1-2 can register for camps including “The Science of Fire” (June 23-26) and “Soil, Dig This!” (July 14-17), and kids in grades 3-4 can sign up for topics such as “Nature Drawing and Journaling” (July 14-17) and “Recycled Rockets” (July 28-31).

During a camp June 9-13, children on the autism spectrum ages 8-12 can explore the center’s wetlands, woods, prairies and farm. See

Life on the farm in Eagan

Holz Farm Camp, July 28-30, focuses on 1940s farm life. According to Paula Nowariak, Eagan recreation program manager, kids ages 5 to 10 will have gunny sack races, visit farm animals, make ropes, grind corn for chickens and make strawberry jam.

“They’ll pick eggs, if the chickens are laying eggs,” Nowariak said. “There’s always rock picking that has to be done. It’s actually a favorite activity with the kids.”


Inspiration from animals

MacPhail Center for Music and the Minnesota Zoo team up for two new music-based camps. During the one-week “Creature Beats” songwriting camps at the zoo (June 9-13, 23-27, July 7-11, Aug. 18-22), kids ages 6 to 8 will study lyric writing and write songs about animals. During “Create a Zoo-sical” one-week camps (July 14-18, July 21-25, July 28-Aug. 1, Aug. 11-15), kids ages 4 to 6 will use a portable recording studio, instruments and audio loops to compose songs.

Register at

Building solar gadgets

In Hastings, GoSolar Explorer hosts “Solar Cars, Robots, and Machines” (July 14-17) and “Solar Gadgets and Gizmos” (Aug. 11-14). “There is a big buzz about green energy,” said camp organizer Joaquin Thomas, but, at school, he said, kids are mostly just reading about it. In these workshops for incoming grades 1-4, kids will learn engineering principles and build solar-powered robots, race cars and cellphone chargers.

Register at

Mountain biking camps

Dakota County Parks holds weeklong mountain bike camps July 14-18 and Aug. 11-15 for ages 10-15 on the Lebanon Hills trails. (Girls-only camps are available.)


What was new in olden days

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  • Kids touched a sheep held by Dodge Nature Center staff member Courtney Luensman in 2013. This year kids can take part in camps ranging from “The Science of Fire” to “Nature Lost and Found.”

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