Kids Camps In Carolinas and Virginia Offer Unique Overnight Experiences

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Looking for something different for your camper this summer? Not all children fit into a traditional overnight camp formula. Some kids would rather set out on a sailing adventure than sing around a campfire or play Capture the Flag.

Several unique camps in the Carolinas and Virginia offer overnight experiences unlike any other. Consider these camp experiences, which mix fun with out-of-the-ordinary learning.

Shadow Hill’s Summer Camp for Kids and Their Dogs • Jackson Springs, N.C.

Kids can bring their best furry friends to camp with them at Shadow Hill Farm’s summer camp, which covers 134 acres in Jackson Springs. Jane Hammett-Bright, who has decades of experience raising and showing Shelties, works with kids and their dogs on everything from agility courses to grooming

“Parents are floored that their child and the dog learned all that they did,” she says.

All dogs are welcome as long as they are kid- and dog-friendly. Dog-and-child pairs stay together in a large building that Hammett-Bright recently constructed using the proceeds from winning the “Fan Favorite” award on the television show, Survivor: Nicaragua. Campers get up early to work with dogs on agility courses, and Hammett-Bright also takes them swimming and camping in the Uwharrie Mountains. She shares her Survivor experience by teaching campers how to build fires and constructing Survivor-inspired games. All meals are homemade and if the timing is right, campers may get to see a litter of newborn puppies.

Appalachian State University Forensic Science Camp • Boone, N.C.

Forget campfires and s’mores. At Appalachian State University’s forensic science camp, campers may spend an evening detonating explosives or making a DNA necklace. Designed for high school students, the camp offers a real-life look at what happens to evidence after it’s collected from a crime scene. Students learn from forensic professionals representing all areas of law enforcement, which could include bomb squads or digital evidence examiners. Crime scene investigation comes to life in the lab where students can investigate a suspicious arson, detect and classify fingerprints, analyze trace evidence and more. The university opens up its high-tech equipment for campers, allowing them to use scanning electron microscopes and polarized light microscopes to examine fusion methods of explosives such as TNT. The camp is staffed by ASU chemistry faculty members, and students stay on-campus (with staff supervision) at ASU for the three-and-one-half-day camp sessions.

RV Sea Lab Summer Camp • Wilmington, N.C.

Summer camp hits the water at RV Sea Lab, where campers spend up to five days sailing a research vessel up and down the Intercoastal Waterway. Students have likened the trip to experiencing what they’ve seen on the Discovery Channel. “The kids get an adventure,” says Matt Perkins, owner, founder and captain of RV Sea Lab. “We are overseeing them, but they live on the boat and crew it.”

Perkins packs in plenty of adventure, including surfing, exploring islands only accessible by boat and using an overboard camera to inventory ocean species. The camp is heavy on science that will benefit students interested in studying chemistry and oceanography, but Perkins says many students come on board for the thrill and freedom of the trip.

“It’s sort of like a literary experience, like they’re Tom Sawyer,” he says. Popular stops include Beaufort and Shackleford Banks, where campers likely will encounter wild ponies.

Camp Motorsport • Clover, Va.

No driver’s license is needed at Camp Motorsport, where kids ages 9-16 can spend a week driving dirt karts, half-scale stock cars and racing go-karts. Campers get behind the wheel at least twice every day, taking a vehicle off-road or around a paved track. Drivers of all levels are welcome, from newbies to kids considering a motorsports career.

Teenagers who are closer to legal driving age can receive extra training in defensive driving and skills needed to get a learner’s permit or license. The Go-Kart Racing Challenge offers a week of competitive go-kart racing. Between driving sessions, campers stay busy with paintball and daily swims. They return home with more than just improved driving skills — the camp’s activities teach kids math, science, technology and engineering related to motorsports.

Camp Woodie • Pinewood, S.C.

An evening at Camp Woodie could involve anything from tug-of-war over a tractor tire to navigating the night sky. The weeklong camp, established in 1995 and overseen by the S.C. Waterfowl Association, mixes fun and games with hands-on education about wildlife, hunting and the outdoors.

“(We teach kids) about how beautiful it is to step outside in God’s creation and to love, respect and use natural resources wisely,” says Ed Paul, Camp Woodie’s director.

Campers learn how to operate in the outdoors, whether they are practicing hunting safety with firearms or figuring out where the best fishing is on a body of water. Outdoor survival classes teach campers everything from how to build a fire to how to navigate by the stars.

Many campers arrive with little experience with the outdoors, but leave with increased confidence and appreciation for nature, Paul says. “They learn just how small we are when we step outside, but also how large of a role we can have in keeping the outdoors a place for the next generation.”

While specialty overnight camps can cost up to $1,200 for five days, the experience is often life-changing. Kids who build on the skills they learn at camp can earn everything from college scholarships to counselor jobs when they are older — a worthy investment in their fun and future.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. She has two elementary school age children.

Unique Day Camps Closer to Home

Camp Moo Gung Hwa; Raleigh
Covers Korean culture for Korean-American children.

Cirque de Vol Studios Circus FUNdamentals Camp; Raleigh
Teaches circus arts including aerial silks, trapeze and juggling.

Doll Camps at the Historic Polk House; Raleigh
Kids enjoy colonial games, crafts and stories with American Girl dolls.

Duke Lemur Center’s Leaping Lemur Summer Science Camp; Durham
Campers learn about primate evolution, natural history, research and conservation.

Girls Rock NC: Rock and Roll Day Camp for Girls; Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham
Girls participate in music and empowerment workshops.

Lil’ Chef Kids Cooking Studio; Raleigh
Little chefs learn about cooking, food chemistry and more.

The N.C. School of Traditional Music: Folk Music Summer Camp for Kids; Durham
Campers discover folk music and play historical games.

Town of Cary Camps; Cary
Choose from camps that focus on bluegrass, BMX biking, Civil War history, photography and more.

Here’s one a little farther away, but worth the drive:

Junior Vet Camp; Davidson
Dr. Robbie Whaley of Piedmont Equine Mobile Veterinary Services offers three days of vet camp for kids ages 10-16 who have a “serious interest” in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.

For more camp resources, read our feature, Arts-Based Camps Invite Kids to Paint, Act or Dance Through Summer.

Categories: Activities, Camps, Day Camps, Early Education, Education, Overnight Camps, School Kids, SK Activities, Things To Do, Track-out Camps, Tweens and Teens