This article first appeared in Kidsburgh.org, a media partner of NEXTpittsburgh.
After last year’s disappointing summer, kids and their grownups are thrilled to see the return of many day camps throughout Pittsburgh. Most plan on in-person sessions with all the Covid safety precautions — masks, temperature checks and social distancing — we’ve come to know so well. Class sizes tend to be smaller, which means camps are expecting to fill up faster than usual. But camp activities remain supersized for kids who deserve a break from routine pastimes. Many offer tuition assistance, too. Check out these incredible opportunities for kids this summer.
1. Carnegie Science Center
Carnegie Science Center offers more than 75 camps, fully immersing kids in all the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math. Kids ages 6-17 can return to comfortable favorites from past years or jump into some of the 20 new themes coming this summer. Sports Maker Camp, held in the BNY Mellon Fab Lab, looks at ways to redesign sports equipment to make a better hockey stick or baseball mitt. Robots of the Round Table offers a medieval twist for kids to program robot knights to joust or batter down castle walls. Kids can learn wizard skills in Spellbound Science by making objects glow, fizz and disappear. Two sessions of sensory camps are offered as well. Download the complete brochure here.
The Science Center offers a limited number of need-based scholarships. Email or call 412-237-3400 for details.
2. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
The Trust Arts Education Camps for Creatives series returns this summer with in-person camps for grades 3-12. The 5-day sessions concentrate on developing creative skills. Science of Visual Art camp emphasizes the laws of physics, chemical reactions and other scientific principles to create art. Sewing for the Stage looks at designing costumes for the theater. And kids will collaborate to put on a show in Theatre Production Camp. Register here.
3. Assemble Pittsburgh
Campers choose between virtual and in-person sessions at Assemble Pittsburgh this year. STEAM camps for ages 6-16 are based on hands-on learning through shared experiences. Expect lots of individual attention, with a maximum of 10 kids at in-person classes and no more than 20 for virtual classes. Virtual campers will receive material kits to follow along at home. In Superheroes Assemble!, first and second graders explore superpowers found in nature as they design costumes and gadgets. Galaxy Girls in grades 4-9 will build a spaceship and consider what it takes to develop new habitats on other planets. Cool stuff! Check out other camps and register here.
Call 412-661-6111 to learn about scholarships. Garfield residents attend for free.
4. Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
Kids ages 4-14 are the focus of Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s summer camps at the Frick Environmental Center. Camps are geared to specific ages, so kids get the most from the experience. In Kinder Camp, for example, 4- and 5-year-olds dig for worms, plant seeds and sing songs. Fifth and sixth graders in Outdoor Expedition Camp take part in hands-on projects and skill-building activities while exploring the beautiful spaces in Frick Park. See the complete lineup here.
Camps will be held entirely outdoors, except in the case of dangerous weather. Group classes are limited to eight campers. Campership scholarships are available for income-eligible families.
5. Dragon’s Den
Dragon’s Den is a newcomer to the summer camp lineup. The transformative educational environment has reinvented the former St. Mary Magdalene Church as a two-level rope course and zipline. Kids ages 7-18 will find exciting camps that range from Circus in the Sky and Myths and Magic to Dragon’s Laboratory. Choose from half-day or full-day camps, all of which include outdoor fun in the sun with the help of Venture Outdoors. Browse camps and register here.
6. PMT Conservatory
Summer Musical Theater Camp at the PMT Conservatory shines the spotlight on kids ages 4-18. The four-week camps train kids in acting, voice and dance. They rehearse for a full-scale performance offered under the canopy at the West End school as a grand finale. Depending on age, kids can take part in “Jukebox Time Machine,” “Footloose the Musical” and “Grease.” Teens can choose the Technical Theater and Design track to learn about set design and construction, lighting and costumes.
Registration opens on April 12. Financial aid and payment plans are available.
7. Shady Side Academy
Summer camps at Shady Side Academy, designed with working parents in mind, include before-care and free lunch. Kids from pre-K through high school will find a range of weekly camps on four campuses in Fox Chapel and Point Breeze. Sports-minded kids can focus skills on hockey, golf or tennis. Maker kids can choose Fabricating in the Fab Lab. And gamers will be challenged with Programming in Minecraft. High school kids can take for-credit classes in art, math and science, as well as courses in essay writing and SAT/ACT prep. Find the complete lineup here and start your summer dreaming!
8. Jewish Community Center
JCC Day Camps organize kids ages 2-15 in three locations — Squirrel Hill, Monroeville and the South Hills. Miscellaneous Adventures includes a magic and balloon workshop with Weird Eric. Lights, Camera, Action employs the experts from Steeltown for a lesson in filmmaking. Kids learn to use hand tools in the Carving Out the Fun woodworking course. Download the complete brochure here.
Financial assistance is available for members, but eligible families can also receive assistance for membership. Call 412-339-5398.
9. National Aviary
The National Aviary offers both in-person and virtual camps this year. At Safari Camp, kids ages 6-12 explore free-flight habitats where they’ll find species of birds from around the world. Guided sessions demonstrate how Aviary staff care for more than 500 birds and animals. Teens ages 13-16 can opt for the Career Camp Teen Week, where they can learn what it takes to pursue a future as a zookeeper, ornithologist or veterinarian. Register here.
10. Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History
Summer camps for ages 6 through teens are back with in-person and virtual sessions at Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. High schoolers can explore high-tech architecture, vacation with an artist or design a neighborhood. Junior scientists concentrate on Egyptian life on the Nile, backyard biology and the world of dinosaurs. You’ll find camps with an art emphasis, too, from ceramics to giant drawings. And be sure to check out the programming at Powdermill Nature Reserve, too. Browse classes and register here.
Financial aid is available for eligible families.
11. Aspinwall Riverfront Park
Aspinwall Riverfront Park teamed up with Winchester Thurston School to offer summer camps that focus on connections to nature and community. Kids in grades 1-6 will love outdoor programming that includes flying kites, scavenger hunts and 3-D art installations. Each of the four weeks will concentrate on a different theme, such as Fire & Water, Earth & Air and Plants & Animals. Kids can sign up for a single week or all four, with the opportunity to earn badges along the way. Learn more and register here.
A limited number of need-based scholarships are available. For consideration, email or call 412-916-4342.
12. Air Force Association CyberCamp
The annual Air Force Association CyberCamp is presented via a partnership between the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security and Pitt Information Technology. This year, the free, weeklong camp is scheduled from July 19-23. High school kids will be immersed in a range of technical skills and digital literacy with a focus on cyberethics and systems security. CyberCamp will take place virtually this year. Sign up to be notified about registration tentatively opening in May.
13. Venture Outdoors
Venture Outdoors’ summer camps for kids in grades 3-8 take place at North Park and on the North Shore. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy active recreation like kayaking, fishing, biking and geocaching. Science experiments, crafts and leadership development will help kids gain self-confidence and a greater appreciation for nature. Choose from Outdoor Adventure Camp, Cycling Through Summer or one of the two Survival Skills camps. Check out the lineup and register here.
14. Sweetwater Center for the Arts
Kids ages 4-16 can find their muse through a wide variety of mediums at Sweetwater Center for the Arts’ summer camps. From ceramics and watercolor to animation and graffiti, kids will find exciting ways to express their creativity. Cooking classes, STEM circuitry and acting are included, too. Most classes are in-person, but some virtual sessions are available as well. Browse the 80-plus options and register here.
15. Gemini Children’s Theater
Five-day summer camps at Gemini Children’s Theater channel energy and talent toward the theater arts. Kids as young as 4 learn to write, rehearse and perform a play that they help develop from their imagination. Scene building, collaborating and character development apply across all age groups (up to 17 years).
Register by May 31 for an early bird discount. Scholarships, tuition assistance and payment plans are available, too.
16. Mattress Factory
The Mattress Factory’s Summer@The Factory will operate virtually this year for kids ages 7-14. Futuristic Voyagers imagines alien lands and their mysterious inhabitants. The Plot Thickens considers how characters, materials and creativity portray epic tales. Teens can also learn to develop characters through animation, puppetry and stop motion in Characters in Motion. Choose a camp and register here.
Discounts are available for North Side residents and SNAP participants. Email for details.
17. The Ellis School
Summer camps at The Ellis School spark imagination and develop problem-solving skills. Coed Kids Camps for ages 3-10 follow weekly themes like Real-World Careers, Collaborative Story Telling and Super Leaders. Older kids ages 10-17 in Changemakers Lab focus on sessions like Engineer the Future, Urban Ecology and Digital Citizenship. Choose your week or register for the full summer here.
18. Cello Fury Rock Camp
Violinists, cellists, bassists and violists are invited to bring it to Cello Fury Rock Camp for Strings, offered in hybrid, in-person and online sessions this year. Cello Fury’s camp gives young musicians an alternative to traditional classical training to play in a high-energy string rock orchestra. Workshops include subjects like music composition, fitness for musicians, improvisation and music promotion. The camp concludes with an outdoor concert for friends and family. All skill levels are welcome from ages 7-17. Register here.
19. Ascend Pittsburgh
At Ascend Pittsburgh summer camps, kids’ strength and dexterity will be tested through activities like rope climbing and bouldering. Balance is another skill to master when walking a slackline. Are your kids new to climbing? No problem. These classes are designed to be accessible for all levels and for ages 6-16. Register here.
Summer camp financial assistance is available.
20. The Wheel Mill
Both more experienced and wannabe shredders can find a session at The Wheel Mill’s BMX and Mountain Bikes Camps. Kids will be thrilled to experience the 80,000-square-foot park filled with all kinds of trails and ramps with varying terrain and levels of difficulty. Beginners learn general bike safety and skills along with cycling, mountain bike and BMX vocabulary. Once kids master the basics, they can move onto learning intermediate skills. Check out the camp lineup here.