By Jill Harmacinski
It's not just about swimming to the raft, arts and crafts, and sing-a-longs anymore.
Summer day camps around the region offer kids big and small everything including sea kayaking, tennis lessons, Web site development, horse rides and even tours of the county jail.
"It's so different for kids now. There are so many different interests and so many programs for them," said Ernie Greenslade, Northern Essex Community College spokeswoman.
Again this summer, NECC is offering College for Kids and Arts Alive, two children's summer camps located on the college's Haverhill campus.
This year, College for Kids is running a junior division, for 9- to 11-year-olds, and a senior division for 12- to 14-year-olds. The camp runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and campers can select morning, midday and afternoon classes.
And look at some of the classes kids can take: Musical theater, computers, movie-making, junk-box creations, book-publishing, scene study, modern dance, hands-on Algebra, biology, Web design and Shakespeare.
Arts Alive is geared for kids ages 6- to 8-years-old. Rotating classes run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and focus on theater, art, music, science poetry, dance and storytelling.
Public and private school teachers from around the region are teaching for both camps.
"There's really something for everyone," said Greenslade, noting her son participated in the camps for five years. "He really loved it."
The Merrimack Valley YMCA offers a traditional day camp environment at Camp Otter on Captain's Pond in Salem, N.H. The 10-week camp is a favorite for kids ages 6 to 13 from Andover, North Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, Salem, Windham and Atkinson, said Elizabeth Covino, spokesperson for the Merrimack Valley YMCA.
New this year are a series of Camp Otter specialty camps for kids ages 10 to 14. After meeting each day at Camp Otter, the kids participate in a variety of off-site activities in the Road Rangers Travel Camp. Road Rangers will hike, horseback ride, hit the high ropes, take an overnight canoe trip, explore caves and head to a waterpark. They'll also get to pick and budget some activities too, Covino said.
"It makes me want to go to camp," she said.
Cedarland, Fitness 'n Fun Summer Day Camps, located at Cedardale Health Facility in Haverhill is another popular choice. Day camps are offered there for kids ages 3 to 14. Off-site outings are planned this summer for students 12 to 15 years old.
The camp touts itself for its excellent camper-to-staff ratios and offers kids access to an Olympic-size pool and attached wading pool, basketball and volleyball courts, 18-hole miniature golf course, batting cages, rock-climbing wall, and slip 'n dip inflatable slide.
And, for kids who like to hit the courts, Cedardale this summer is offering a new half-day tennis camp for kids ages 5 to 9.
Older children looking for a more disciplined approach may want to try the Leadership Academy, hosted annually by the Essex County Sheriff's Department. Nine sessions for kids 12 to 15 are based at Essex Agricultural Institute on Route 62 in Danvers. The academy is free, and busing is provided for students in Essex County.
During the weeklong camp, kids get a chance to do things such as sea kayak, take a fishing trip off Plum Island and take a Boston duck tour. Camp leader John O'Connor stressed the kids will also tour Middleton Jail, meet the sheriff's department canine unit, and take classes on anti-bullying, drug awareness and anger management.
"This summer, we'll also be doing something that addresses underage drinking and its effects," O'Connor said.
O'Connor noted the camp is very structured.
"The campers learn about discipline and working with others," O'Connor said.
Some day camp resources
r College for Kids, Arts Alive at NECC, www.necc.mass.edu, 978-556-3456
r Cedarland, www.cedarland.net, 978-373-1596
r Merrimack Valley YMCA camps, www.mvymca.org, 978-975-1330
r Leadership Academy, www.eccf.com, 978-750-1900 ext. 3315