Playtime: From steel drums to improv, options galore for summer camps

Rockin Marimba Camp at Edmonds Center for the Arts.

Maybe it’s because the weather has looked like winter since last summer or maybe it’s just what we say each year, but it’s really hard to believe that the end of school is near. There are four weeks and a handful of make-up snow days left before school is out for summer. The older I get, the more I look forward to the time off from school. I used to feel the pressure of having a school-ager and a toddler home all day, which is just a lot of work, especially after the pre-dawn shift I used to have. These days, I am anxious for turning the days of spelling lists and science projects into weeks that end with costume contests and new friendships.

One of my favorite parts of writing this column is getting to tell everyone about all of the great local options for summer camps. This year is no exception! There are new camps at the Edmonds Center for the Arts and through Edmonds Parks and Recreation that are really exciting, each for different reasons. Plus, the activity we are dying to do, but have yet to figure out how to squeeze in — Steel Drums through Steel Magic Northwest, which not only has a summer camp, but a “Hands-On” Open House next week.

Of the four great camps the Edmonds Center for the Arts offers, one is new. Rhythm Generation: Intergenerational Marimba Camp. Gillian Jones, Director of Programming for the ECA, wrote me to talk about their “marimba workshop for teens and seniors,” which is their first intergenerational camp. The camp is led by Youth Marimba Workshop in partnership with Silver Kite Community. It’s goal is to give seniors and teens, ages 13 through 19, “the experience of a true community marimba band.” The camp is set up for the teens to attend from 9 a.m to noon each day in a special morning session. The teens then “take the lead” teaching their senior bandmates, who arrive mid-morning. On the last day of camp, there will be a family and friends performance featuring the full band.

In my late teens, I worked in the cafeteria of a senior living facility and I can look back at that experience as a time where I learned a lot, including how little I knew about other people. Learning about a different generation and one that had different needs than my own (which at the time were mousse and a Thomas guide), provided me with tolerance and understanding that I didn’t previously have, so I fully recommend a similar experience. This camp runs from Aug. 7-11, 9 a.m. to noon.

ECA has three other Summer Art Enrichment Camps all held on site, which is truly half the fun. The facility alone is incredible, from the gym to the classrooms to the location. I reached out to the ECA and confirmed that each camp still has spaces open for summer!

Much Ado About Nothing: Improv, Combat & Acting Camp  with Seattle Shakespeare Company
Dates: July 10-14, 2017
Ages: 11-15

Investigate, Adapt, Act! with Book-It Repertory Theatre
Dates: July 17-21, 2017
Ages: 7-11

Rockin’ Rhythms Marimba Camp with Youth Marimba Workshop
Dates: July 31-Aug. 4, 2017
Ages: 7-11

To register for an ECA summer camp, you can visit or contact the ECA Box Office by phone at 425-275-9595. Before and after-camp care is also available through a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Edmonds, which is just a quick chaperoned walk from the theater.

Edmonds Parks and Recreation has a lot of great offerings for summer camps as well. With the cancellation of Camp Goodtime for the preschool set, their offerings are now solely specialty camps. Of the new camps this year, I am the most excited about the Steel Drum Camp, mainly because I have a son who would love to do it.

Gary Gibson, from Steel Magic Northwest, is holding two levels of this camp from Aug. 14-18. Students, who need no prior musical experience, will learn “music fundamentals (rhythm, melody, harmony) and proper steel pan techniques.” According to the camp’s description, “learning music on the steel pan has a gentler initial learning curve than other traditional instruments” which is a bonus if you have an easily frustrated child. There will be a “mini-performance” on the last day of camp and all instruments and materials are provided.

This camp will be held at Steel Magic Northwest’s space at Edmonds Adventist Church, 8625 196th St. S.W., Edmonds. One session is for students ages 9 to 11 or 5th and 6th graders and the second is for those ages 12 to 17 or 7th to 12 graders. You can register for this camp by calling Debbie at 425-771-0230 or by visiting

If you’re not sure if this camp is right for your student, Steel Magic Northwest is holding a “Hands-On” Open house on Wednesday, May 31 from 5 to 6:30 p.m.. At 5 p.m., you can observe the tail end of the youth class, which includes a performance, before students can give the instruments a try on their own as they’re taught a portion of a song. Students from 4th to 12th grade, as well as adults, are welcome to participate in this event, which is also held at Edmonds Adventist Church. They ask that if you are planning to attend, you email Gary Gibson at to RSVP.

A column on great local camps wouldn’t be complete without advice from Debbie at Edmonds Parks and Recreation. Non-Edmonds residents pay a slightly higher fee than Edmonds residents for these camps.

We caught up this week and each and every time we talk about summer camps I remember my “please help me” call that started all of our fun at the Frances Anderson Center. She guided us to Camp Goodtime then, but this time she gave me the scoop on some camps at FAC.

First, I asked her about the Mad Science camps, which run from July 24-28. She told me that these are two half-day camps, aimed at kids 7-11, that can be combined to make a full day camp. Mad Science Full Day Crazy Chemworks and Spy Academy runs from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. and involves both themes. For those looking for only half days, you have the option of only signing up for one half. The morning session, 9 a.m. to noon, is Chemworks for junior chemists to use all the tools, procedures and techniques of a real chemist as they “investigate solids, liquids and gases at the atomic level. They’ll craft chemical combinations to create super-sticky-stuff, analyze the properties of light and discover why things glow-in-the-dark.”

The afternoon session, 1-4 p.m., is Spy Academy. Campers can sharpen their “special operative skills” as they “ learn the art of listening and observation, sending secret messages and decoding clues, and check out security systems and super cool spy equipment.” Both sessions include something daily to take home and show your family.

Debbie also mentioned both the Drama Kids and the Adventures in Anime camps. Drama Kids is for ages 6 to 11 and is just like the program you can get during the school year. The week, July 10-14, culminates in a performance for friends and family. Adventures in Anime is an art camp taught by Jessica Carlson, who also teaches the Northwest Wonders art camp. Debbie spoke very highly of Carlson and the new camp exploring Japanese Animation was one she was really looking forward to.

There are lots of options to register for camps through Edmonds Parks and Recreation. You can call 425-771-0230 or visit Another great option for more information, besides thumbing through the Craze, is to visit Once on that page, you can click on “2017 Summer Camp Brochure” and look at it all at once!

— By Jennifer Marx

Jen Marx

Jen Marx, a mom of two young boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time. You can find her on Twitter trying to make sense of begging kids to ”just eat the mac n cheese” @jen_marx.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *