On an unusually cool August morning at Northeast Middle School, Room B114 was buzzing with excitement as Snapology campers ...
Open to all
The Blake School — a private, nonsectarian school — serves about 1,400 pre-K through 12th-grade students across its campuses in Minneapolis, Hopkins and Wayzata during the school year.
But did you know that the school is open to all — not just Blake students — for special camp programming known as Summer at Blake?
In fact, Blake isn’t unique in this respect: Numerous private schools in the metro area invite non-students to join their campuses during their off seasons. (See our sidebar.)
During summer, Blake hosts about 900 Blake and non-Blake students in more than 100 classes, workshops and camps,featuring academic, arts and athletic activities, including day camps.
There’s typically a 50-50 split between Blake and non-Blake students attending camps each summer.
Blake’s general-interest day camp — Camp Acoma — includes four age categories — Cubs (pre-K–K), Bears (grades K–2), Adventure (grades 3–4) and Leaders in Training (grades 5–7). Rates are comparable to other local day camps at $245–$340 for a week of full-day camp, including extended-day options.
For sessions running June 18–July 20, Acoma campers can take advantage of Blake’s expansive Hopkins campus, which includes ample opportunities for outdoor play, visual arts, athletics, daily swimming at the on-site pool and even ice skating in a newly renovated ice arena. During sessions held July 23–Aug. 3, Camp Acoma sessions move to the school’s Wayzata campus (known as Highcroft) with swimming at Wayzata Beach.
Blake’s core values — of respect, love of learning, integrity and courage — are explored throughout the summer. Each week features a unique theme along with weekly field trips and special projects.
Off -campus field trips emphasize adventure and new experiences: In 2017, kids traveled to U.S. Bank Stadium, Carlson’s Llovable Llamas and Lake Minnetonka Sailing School, to name a few.
Children of all ages can also enroll in specialty half-day camps at all three of Blake’s campuses June 11–Aug. 9.
Specialty options include language, music and theater lessons as well as other interest-based half-day camps such as Magic: The Gathering, Buttercream Basics With Cookies, Chess Camp, Global Art Adventure: American Southwest and Gamebots Beginner Coding.
Parents can mix and match all types of camps by enrolling kids in half-day versions of various camps, including the option of half-day Camp Acoma sessions.
Mix and match
Last summer, we met Luana, a fifth-grader, who took advantage of Camp Acoma and specialty camp options in the same week on the Hopkins campus.
She attended a Page to Stage theater-arts camp in which she helped paint a tree for the backdrop of a theatrical production of Stephanie’s Ponytail, based on a children’s book by Robert Munsch.
Each morning, Luana learned how to transform the pages of a story into a live performance through acting exercises and theater games guided by Blake drama teacher Lori Opsal.
Later in the day, Luana attended Camp Acoma where she learned team-building and leadership skills while working with younger campers.
“There’s a lot of things you get to do and it’s really fun,” Luana said. “And then you get to play with the little kids and you get to help them.”
Gabi, a fourth-grader, also attended the theater camp. Her favorite part of the day, however, was swimming and water activities at Camp Acoma.
Last year, Gabi participated in the Acoma Aquathlon in which campers raced against each other in running and swimming while being cheered on by friends and counselors.
Specialty theater camps take advantage of the newly renovated auditorium on the Hopkins campus, which is also home to the annual Camp Acoma talent show.
“They might play catch, they might do some tumbling, they might sing,” said Jessie Briol, the director of Summer at Blake. “It’s a super fun time and a chance for the kids to spend some time on stage, which is always nerve-wracking, but a great experience.”
Summer at Blake also includes — for grades 9 through 12 — courses for credit, such as Woodworking and Health, offered to help Blake students — and non-Blake students with permission from their schools — meet their arts and health curriculum requirements.
Non-credit-bearing academic classes for upperclassmen as well as intensive ACT prep courses are off ered over the summer as well.
Counselors at the Acoma day camps create a traditional summer camp atmosphere by singing a special camp song.
“Alright! Let’s do the Acoma song!” Briol shouted to a giggling group of kids — pre-K Cubs to seventh-grade Leaders in Training, all gathered on the steps of the Lower School.
Quickly, the campers composed themselves and lifted their arms up in anticipation.
“A is for adventure that’s headed our way!” they sang as they joined their hands over their heads into a point.
“C is for the choice we make to do our best today! O is opportunity to M: make a new friend! A is for Acoma! Acoma! That’s the end!” they shouted with glee.
After the opening Acoma song, campers broke into their groups and followed their counselors to start their days — jampacked with art projects, kickball games and team-building exercises, too.
Briol said she hopes students leave Blake camps with a well-rounded, fun and educational experience.
“I’m very passionate about summer programming, just in general,” Briol said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to be in a space where they can take risks and make friends and have fun and be themselves without any pressure. So that’s what I really hope kids get out of this summer — an opportunity to grow and learn and just enjoy themselves.”
Olivia Volkman-Johnson is a local freelance writer and a recent graduate of Winona State University.
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