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 www.dodgenaturecenter.org.

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.”

See www.cityofeagan.com.

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 mnzoo.org.

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 www.gosolarworkshop.com/shop/cms.php?id_cms=8.

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.)

See www.co.dakota.mn.us.

What was new in olden days

Dakota City Heritage Village in Farmington holds weeklong camps (June 23-26, July 21-24) for kids ages 6-12. This year’s theme is “The Modern 1900s,” and according to education director Alisa Peterson, kids will learn about turn-of-the-century trends and inventions. “Bicycles were extremely popular,” she said, and “there were rumors about men flying in these big, funny contraptions in the sky.” Kids will also play games such as hoops and sticks and learn about period-specific chores. On June 16-19, the volunteer camp (ages 13 and up) gives older kids (and potential volunteers) more hands-on experience, such as sewing in the millinery or printing in the print shop.

Visit www.dakotacity.org.

Pioneer life at Fort Snelling

Just on the edge of Dakota County, Fort Snelling hosts four-day Huck Finn day camps for ages 9-12 (July 15-18, July 31-Aug. 1, Aug. 12-15), which involve fishing, hiking, cooking over an open fire and canoeing. The one-day soldier camp is still enlisting recruits ages 8-12 for 1820s soldier life (June 7, 28; July 12, 26; Aug. 9), and the one-day archaeology camp (July 19, Aug. 2) lets kids dig, sift and work in a lab with real archaeologists and historians. See www.historicfortsnelling.org.


Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.