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Carnegie MuseumsMedia Kit


“Kids go home on Friday and can’t wait to come back again on Monday.”

- Nancy Sampson
Carnegie Museum
of Natural History
























“If something is a huge hit and kids love it, then we try to create a camp around it.”

- Amy Cribbs,
Education Coordinator
Carnegie Science Center









































Many Museum of Art campers can say they had their work displayed in a world-class museum before they graduated from high school.




Camp Carnegie

Illustrations: Dave Klug

The words “summer camp” automatically bring to mind images of water sports, arts and crafts, and kids singing campfire songs. In the last several years, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh has redefined summer camp by introducing a wide variety of programs specifically for kids who want to spend the summer learning to be scientists, artists, and archaeologists.

The simple idea of creating practical, educational, and fun camps has proven to be a winner in several ways: parents get a worry-free answer to the age-old question: “How do I keep the kids inspired during summer vacation?” and kids get to enjoy exploring their interests with like-minded peers and skilled and knowledgeable teachers. In addition, Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Carnegie Science Center each get an opportunity to excite children and their families about their facilities.

Every year, each camp attracts numerous participants from the Pittsburgh area and beyond—demonstrating how both children and parents thirst for this type of camp experience. “We have a woman from Ohio who brings her two kids every year because, as she says, ‘There is nothing where I live that offers this kind of experience,’” says Nancy Sampson, who schedules classes and camps at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Carnegie Museums strives to keep camps fun, educational, and convenient. Lesson plans eschew school curriculum in favor of play, creativity, and exploration. Professional instructors (many of whom are certified teachers) lead camps, along with college student assistants and teen volunteers, with a ratio of about one supervisor to every four campers, so children receive the attention they need. Pre- and post-camps allow parents to drop off children as early as 7:30 a.m. and pick them up as late as 5 or 6 p.m.

“Children get a limited time in school art classes,” says Nikki Faychak Kalcevic, Carnegie Museum of Art’s children’s education programs specialist. “By the time the teacher explains the project, the children get maybe 20 minutes to work on their artwork before they have to start cleaning up. Our camps are concentrated. Here, kids get to spend an entire morning or afternoon making art.”


Discovering the World at Camp Earth

In a large room behind the Museum of Natural History’s Alcoa Hall of American Indians, a group of six- and seven-year-olds enthusiastically play a game titled “Kids Just Wanna Have Fun.” Colorful, camper-created Native American dream catchers—made from paper plates, yarn, colored markers, and feathers—are proudly displayed on a nearby table.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Camp Earth summer programs provide children a chance to paint with celery, soar with bats, and dig for dinosaurs. The camps—32 were offered over a nine-week period in 2003—drew 640 campers last year. Since 2000, more than 3,000 campers have attended. While some children attend all nine weeks, the average child registers for two camps every summer. “Kids go home on Friday and can’t wait to come back again on Monday,” says Sampson.

That’s because Camp Earth is the perfect summer adventure for aspiring environmentalists, entomologists, Egyptologists, and anthropologists. Nature lovers can enroll in “Romp in the Swamp" to dive deep into the world of the muck and mud; dinosaur enthusiasts gravitate toward “Dinosaur Detectives;” Summer Olympics fans can have a medal ceremony of their own in "Animalympics," while “Superhero Science” gives CMU professors and preteens the rare opportunity to figure out if Spiderman can really climb a wall.

Every camp relates to a museum exhibit and, if possible, to something currently hot with kids. “Forensic Files” focuses on a mystery involving a missing insect and combines investigative techniques such as fingerprinting and DNA, visits to the entomology department, and the popular TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigators. A few summers ago, “Survival Camp” found kids combing the Wyckoff Hall of Arctic Life for items needed to survive in a polar environment a la TV’s Survivor. And what’s hotter than Harry Potter? Not much, according to the number of campers already enrolled in “It's a Wizard's World.”

“ When we started “Camp Dragontooth” a lot of people said: ‘What does Harry Potter have to do with the Museum of Natural History?’” Sampson says. “But we cover owl pellets, potions (herbology), snakes, and mythical beasts.” Sampson pauses, smiles, and adds, “We have the dinosaurs stand in for the dragons.”


Creating Future Scientists

Children who prefer Carl Sagan to Louis Leakey might find Carnegie Science Center’s camps—covering everything from astronomy to engineering—to their liking.

On the Science Center’s third floor, the Robotics classroom is littered with tiny wheels, cogs, and gears while busy campers attempt to create their very own Dante II—the CMU robot that explores live volcanoes. In 2003, Science Center camps welcomed 1,200-plus campers for its weeklong camps. Off-site camps are offered at Edinboro University and Upper St. Clair High School.

“ In the last two years the camps have doubled in size,” says Education Coordinator Amy Cribbs. “Some campers sign up for multiple camps, and they’re here all summer. We have some children that come from New York, California, Texas, and even Japan.”

The 27 camps offered over nine weeks in 2003 covered a range of science topics. “River Camp” teamed campers with Pittsburgh Voyager (an educational organization operating river learning classrooms on two retired U.S. Navy vessels) to examine Pittsburgh’s three rivers and learn about river ecology. Children in “Design Challenge” studied scale at the Miniature Railroad & Village, created architectural designs in the computer lab, and built model cities. And “Junior Scientists” explored a different science daily—from chemistry and physics to geology and meteorology.

Photos: Tom Altany

As with the Museum of Natural History, linking exhibits to camps is a priority. Exhibits are the main focus of “Science of OMNIMAX®,” (including Rangos Omnimax Theater tours and a different movie daily), while “Railroad Engineers” concentrates on the Miniature Railroad & Village. The heart of 2003’s “Science Survivors” was the Buhl Planetarium and OMNIMAX® Theater’s Lewis & Clark shows.

Field trips come into play at UPMC SportsWorks’ “Sports Science” with tours of the UPMC Sports Medicine Complex, Heinz Field, and PNC Park, while “Kennywood Science” features the science behind amusement park rides and is topped off with a trip to Kennywood Park.

Like the Natural History Museum, the Science Center isn’t above using a pop-culture phenomenon to attract campers. And so Harry Potter rears his bespectacled head again. In “Wizard Camp” kids learn the science behind shrinky dinks (a moldable plastic that shrinks when baked), create chocolate frogs (think Tootsie Rolls, not amphibians), and how to turn Q-Tips into crystal forests.

“If something is a huge hit and kids love it, then we try to create a camp around it,” says Cribbs. “If they are interested in a topic and we show them the science behind it, then we can pique their interest in science and science careers.”

The Science Center also sponsors the Mission Discovery Summer Program—a joint effort between Carnegie Science Center and The Hill House Association. Funded in part by the National Science Foundation, Mission Discovery promotes science, math, and technology education for Hill District middle-school students. This past summer, 33 students participated in guided Hill District nature walks and a Science Center visit that included a Moon Phases workshop with Planetarium Director John Radzilowicz. The highlight of the program, however, was a three-day camping trip to Powdermill Nature Reserve—the field station of Carnegie Museum of Natural History—where students learned to identify trees, plants, animals, rocks, insects, birds, and stars.

“ The opportunity to take students who live in the city out of their element to experience the surroundings of the region is an amazing thing to witness,” says Aleina Smith, director of Community Affairs for the Science Center.


Focus on Art

In the light-filled Children’s Art Studio at Carnegie Museum of Art, a 6-year-old “Make Mine Musical” camper fashions a French horn from brightly colored tape and hardware supplies as the teacher demonstrates an instrument made from PVC pipe. Behind the instructor, rows of tin-pie-plate gongs and maracas—made from film canisters, dried beans, and painted popsicle sticks—wait to be played

The Museum of Art’s seven-week program of weeklong camps (45 in 2003) for those interested in drawing, sculpture, painting, photography, and printmaking attracts nearly 700 children every summer. Almost half register for more than one camp each summer. “We have kids who are here every week because they want to come back,” says Kalcevic.

Like the Science Center and Museum of Natural History, kids play, learn, create, and visit exhibitions at Museum of Art camps. “Parents expect structured, yet imaginative classes,” she says. Kalcevic designs camps that “promote visual thinking strategies, open-ended conversations, and creative art-making.”
In camps for all ages, the individual self-expression of children is the end goal.
In “Exploring Animation,” for instance, children create flip books based on a character they have invented.

And, as with the other museums’ camps, the Museum of Art’s collections and exhibitions are invaluable. “We’re always linking the artwork and art projects,” Kalcevic says. “I work with instructors to review and integrate their lesson plans with works of art that will inspire children.”

“ Ceramics” and “Sculpture” campers study pieces both inside and outside the museum, and campers enrolled in drawing, painting, and printmaking camps take to the gallery floors with sketch pads in hand. Last summer, “Photography: Words and Images,” a camp combining photography with creative writing, used the exhibition Documenting Our Past: The Teenie Harris Archive Project to teach photographic composition. And Panopticon: An Art Spectacular exhibition was used for drawing, painting, and creating “Playful Puppets” (children made hand puppets and marionettes based on the artwork).

Museum of Art camps also capitalize on local resources. Photography campers visit Carnegie Mellon University’s darkrooms and canvass Oakland for subjects. “Drawn to Architecture” students stop by Carnegie Mellon’s Intelligent Work Place; and budding artists spend time at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens for Monet-style inspiration.

At camps’ end, student-created pieces are displayed in a corridor by the Museum of Art’s Sculpture Court entrance. While some artists wait a lifetime to see their work displayed in a world-class museum, many Museum of Art campers can say they had their work exhibited before they graduated high school.

Seeing your work displayed in a museum, building a robot to take home, or sleeping beneath a beautiful dream catcher you created yourself is just the icing on the cake for Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh campers. Any camper will tell you, the real joy of Carnegie Museums’ camps is spending the summer doing the things they love.

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Copyright (c) 2003 CARNEGIE magazine. All rights reserved.