Growing Minds Need Exercise Too

Growing Minds Need Exercise Too

Not every child is a budding Tiger Woods, a blooming Picasso or the next Mia Hamm. For those who do not enjoy playing sports or creating birdhouses out of Popsicle sticks, there are a variety of summer camps that are designed to challenge young minds without making them feel they are still in school.

"The trick is to keep it fun and challenging. Kids like to be challenged," David Mehler, director of the U.S. Chess Center, said. "They like to use their brains."

* THE RESTON YMCA is offering an adventure camp for 8- to 14-year-olds who are interested in outdoor fun mixed with a little bit of learning.

"We teach life skills," said Shane Dalton, the school-age and summer camp director. "It's kind of like a combination of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts."

Campers will gather at the YMCA in Reston each morning during the two-week sessions, then travel to Lake Fairfax for a variety of activities including canoeing, archery, hiking and overnight camping. In addition, they will meet environmentalists who will teach them about all things outdoors. A couple of times a week, the campers will go swimming at the Water Mine water park. This is the first year the Reston YMCA is offering the program.

The cost is $240 for YMCA members and $290 for nonmembers. The camp sessions run from June 24-Aug. 16. Contact the Reston YMCA, 12196 Sunset Hills Road, for more information or to register. Call 703-742-8800 or visit the Web site at

* "KIDS really take to chess. When it's taught properly, chess is accessible to everyone," said David Mehler, director of the U.S. Chess Center. "We get parents saying this is the one camp their children want to return to every year."

The U.S. Chess Center holds summer camps at various locations, mostly elementary schools, throughout Fairfax County beginning June 25 and continuing through Aug. 12. The week-long sessions are geared toward students in grades two through nine. Half-day and full-day sessions are available.

The campers don't spend the entire time playing chess, however; there is some time reserved for other activities.

"If you don't treat them as kids, they won't come back," Mehler said.

The price ranges from $70 to $140 depending on the session. The camp locations, times and registration are available on the center's Web site at

* BEFORE A CAMPER can graduate to counselor, he needs to learn the basics, so the Reston YMCA offers a Counselor in Training (CIT) program for 13- to 15-year-olds.

"It's two week sessions where the camper is paired with an activities coordinator the first week to learn how to organize and run the different activities for all the age levels. The second week, the camper is put with a group of children to help organize the activities," Eve Drewry, the youth and family director said.

The camp runs from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. in two-week sessions, beginning June 24 and concluding Aug. 30. The cost is $100 for YMCA members and $120 for nonmembers. Contact the Reston YMCA, 12196 Sunset Hills Road, for more information or to register. Call 703-742-8800 or visit the Web site at

* THE RESTON YMCA is trying a new summer camp that has proved successful at other YMCA facilities, the Summer of Service program.

Twelve- to 15-year-olds will spend two weeks learning about and helping their communities. In addition, the camp counts toward the needed community-service hours high-school and some middle-school students need to graduate.

Amie Wepking, the program coordinator for the Summer of Service, said each of the four sessions will have a different focus within the community.

The first, from July 8-19, is "My Brother's Keeper," where the campers will be focusing on helping people and learning about the work others do in the community such as those who work with people with disabilities, the elderly and environmentalists. The second session, from July 22-Aug. 2, is "Building Bridges." The campers will learn about people of all ages starting with preschoolers and working their way up to the elderly. The third session, "My America," runs from Aug. 5-16. During this session, the campers learn about youth advocacy and what sorts of things they can do within their community to make a difference at their age. The final session, Aug. 19-30, is "It's No Fun to Be Without a Home," will take the campers to homeless shelters and food banks to explore the realties of being homeless.

Wepking said despite the weightiness of the topics, the camp is designed so that the children can still have fun.

"The service projects will take three or four hours. The rest of the time will be spent at parks," Wepking said. "Fridays are 'Fun Fridays' for skating or going to a water park or something."

The camp times are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Contact the Reston YMCA, 12196 Sunset Hills Road, for more information or to register. Call 703-742-8800 or visit the Web site at

* "THIS IS THE FIFTH YEAR we've sponsored the [Summer Technology] program. It brings middle-schoolers to the community colleges and four-year universities to be exposed to technology they wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to," David Hunn, director of the Northern Virginia Regional Partnership (NVRP), said. "We wanted to push the envelope. We're trying to think of what the work force of the future would be."

The program is offered at all five Northern Virginia Community College campuses, as well as Marymount University, George Mason Middle and High School and Virginia Tech Northern Virginia campus.

The one- or two-week sessions range from boat building and water ecology to robotics to clay animation movie-making to virtual reality.

Each site offers different topics, and each camp is offered twice. The first round of camps is from July 8-19 and the second runs from July 22-Aug. 2. The two-week camps are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Costs range from $200 to $385 and are partially subsidized by the NVRP. For more information about the various camps available and their locations or to register, visit the Web site at www.