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April 15, 2009 > Space out at summer camp

Space out at summer camp

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Courtesy of Chabot Space and Science Center

Tucked in the redwoods of the scenic Oakland hills, Chabot Space and Science Center is a glorious gem. Parents who appreciate the energetic environment and countless child-friendly exhibits may want to investigate its popular weeklong space camps for kids.

Spring break camps offered recently included Robots World for older students and Space Out Unit for younger children.

During Robots World, animated campers were totally engaged in building robots out of Legos. Using laptop computers, they programmed their creations to complete an obstacle course. Even sound effects could be added. The youths' zeal emanated throughout the room.

One student created a robot resembling WALL-E, the lovable hero from the 2008 Pixar film of the same name. This endeavor required cooperation among the campers. One activity was a discussion of the social issues presented in the WALL-E movie.

The week culminated in a robot dance challenge.

Younger kids participated in Space Out Unit, where they proudly created and displayed space packs that illuminated their individual creativity. Campers also designed and named their own constellations, then created a story about it. In the portable planetarium, each used a laser light to outline his constellation among the stars on the ceiling and read his story.

Motor skills were not neglected. As it was a rainy day, counselors had the youngsters jumping on trampolines and other devices. Each one had one minute for an activity before switching - ideal for short attention spans.

This summer's special offering is the All Star Edition Space Explorers Summer Camp 2009. Open for children entering grades 1 - 8, the agenda includes a MegaDome show, portable planetarium, and naturalist-led hikes that will help expend summer energy. Counselors are science oriented and highly motivated.

Week-long sessions include:

Engineer It! (July 6 - 10)
Plans for this week include designing shoebox satellites and launching them, training like a real astronaut, and designing a functional roller coaster.

Make It! (July 13 - 17)
Children will draw with their elbows, make a 'bot boogie, and create a telescope like Galileo.

Dig It! (July 20 - 24)
Campers will dig into planet Earth with this action-packed week of ground-shaking activities.

Solve It! (July 27 - 31)
Super sleuths will unravel the mysteries of the night sky, learn about anatomy by conducting alien autopsies, and solve crimes like a forensic scientist.

Register for the themed week that appeals most to your child, who will be placed in an appropriate academic level: grades 1-3, 4-6 or 7-8. Each camp session also offers a 2009 camp T-shirt, a youth admission ticket for future use, a youth pass for the MegaDome Theater, and discounts for the Starry Nights Gift Shop.

Since space abhors a vacuum, classes fill up fast. Don't wait until the July 1 deadline to make your reservation. Classes run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with before and/or after care (beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m.) provided for an additional charge. Limited scholarships are also available. Call for details.

Focusing on the environment as well as the stars, the center facilitates alternative transportation. "We call it a 'casual carpool' and it seems to be popular with parents," explains Robert Ade. "Our staff will share phone numbers of other parents in the same area, and the parents organize them."

All Star Edition Space Explorers Summer Camp
Monday-Friday, July 6-31
Chabot Space and Science Center
10000 Skyline Boulevard, Oakland
(510) 336-7426
$350 per week for members, $385 for non-members

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