While this season is a great time to unwind, it can also be a time of enrichment and personal growth. And as the school year comes to a close, the doors open up for a variety of activities right here in the Lawrence area.
Julie Dunlap’s family looks forward to the warmest months of the year and all the experiences that come with them.
“I really love summer and believe the kids need to be able to unwind, relax and enjoy the only period of time each year where they aren’t scheduled morning to evening,” Dunlap says. “That said, as the stay-at-home mom of four kids, I also believe the kids need a little time where someone other than mom is responsible for entertainment.”
Dunlap’s older two girls will spend the first part of summer wrapping up softball in the evenings, and her son is looking forward to a Cub Scouts day camp. All four children will take a class or two at the Lawrence Arts Center to help break up the days a little.
The arts center’s drama instructor, Ric Averill, says this time of year provides a unique learning opportunity for children.
“The great thing about summer is that kids can be totally focused on the project at hand,” he says. “The arts center becomes their school for the summer, and we have the wonderful advantage of having kids who really want to be there. That means that kids are giving 100 percent without distractions.”
Averill says he believes that the experiences children have during the summer will enrich their learning during the school year.
“While taking children on artistic journeys, we find tons of teachable moments — about society, humanity, history, culture and even various subjects that will relate to their schoolwork in the fall,” he says.
The theme of this year’s Summer Youth Theatre season is Rebels with a Cause. Productions include “Rent: School Edition,” “Julius Caesar” and “Annie.” The Lawrence Arts Center also holds dance camps and arts education classes for children of all ages.
Children ages 5 to 14 may also want to check out the “It Starts With Art!” classes on Saturdays at the Spencer Museum of Art this summer.
Each class focuses on a different subject, ranging from works in ancient Egypt to that of current practicing artists. Children spend part of class in gallery and the other part hands-on activities.
The Spencer’s director of education, Kristina Walker, says these classes allow a more focused visit more than just typical gallery visit.
“The kids love making the art and hearing from their peers,” she says. “It’s not just lecturing, but more of an interactive looking and learning experience.”
This summer’s topics include “Nests, Cocoons, Hives, and Lairs,” “Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Critters in Art!” and “Beads and Bling.”
And for those interested in science, the Kansas University Museum of Natural History offers one-day summer camps for children ages 8 to 11 featuring onsite as well as in the field explorations. Highlights include “Dinosaur Detectives,” a “Forensic Fun” mock crime scene and a high-tech scavenger hunt called “Geo Crashing.”
Dawn Kirchner, museum educator, says the summer classes give the kids a chance to have an educational experience outside the classroom.
“During the year, we have 45-minute school programs, but in the summer it’s five-hour sessions,” she says. “It’s more in-depth, so we have more time with the students to talk to them one on one. We’re not just sitting in a classroom but doing hands-on exploring.”
Nature lovers may also enjoy heading out to the Prairie Park Nature Center. The center offers classes for preschoolers and week long camps for older children based on nature themes. Naturalist Tasha Schultz says that archery is becoming increasingly popular, and this summer an archery club will be available for kids who’ve taken a beginning archery class.
And then there are the old favorites. “Canoeing and fishing classes always fill up quickly,” says Schultz.
Other highlights for the summer include the Piano Detective classes at the Music Clubhouse, summer camps with the Kaw Valley Soccer Association, day camps at the Lawrence Gymnastic Academy and various classes through the Lawrence Department of Parks and Recreation.
But with so many activities available at your doorstep, don’t forget to allow plenty of time for some of the most important things of the season.
Dunlap has these has these on her list: “We plan to hit the pool, go on walks, ride bikes, build forts outside, read, visit cousins and grandparents and sleep in as much as possible.”