William Hageman
Chicago Tribune

ummer camps used to be fairly homogenous. Boating, sports, ghost stories around the campfire, noogies, Saran-wrapped toilets. Many camps still feature those fun and character-building activities. But now kids can also study Shakespeare or polish their banjo skills.

“Summer camp used to just kind of be, summer camp,” said Greg Landry, of Landry’s Anatomy and Physiology Camps. “There were very few academic camps years ago. But in the last five, 10 years, that has really taken off and you’re seeing a lot of very specialized academic camps like ours.”

With reservation deadlines approaching, it’s time to look at what’s out there and maybe make some decisions about how your kid will spend the summer.

Landry’s camps wouldn’t be a bad choice. Located in Boone, N.C., they offer eighth- through 12th-graders a week of lab work, lessons and experiments. Perfect for a young person considering a career in medicine, science or related fields. If your teen still needs convincing — as if — the website (http://landryacademy.com/camps.htm) has some spiffy photos. Why, yes, those are sheep and cow innards.

“We do a lot of organ dissections for the anatomy part of it,” Landry said. “We dissect mostly cow and sheep organs, so they get to see things most college kids would never dissect. Heart, lungs, kidneys, muscles, brains, the whole works. For a kid who’s really interested in anatomy and physiology and potentially going to medical school or physical therapy school, it’s exciting to be able to see what the inside of a heart or a brain looks like.”

You say your kid isn’t into science? Well, then, how about paintball?

“It is mostly just for fun,” said Gary Moyer, director of Quest Tournament Paintball in Ontario, which has three camp sessions each summer. “But paintball is one of the most common team-building activities used by businesses.”

The weeklong overnight camps (details at http://quest?paintball.net) are for kids 10 to 14. Sure, they have swimming and hiking and fishing, but you can do that back home. The focus here is firing paintballs at each other.

“We have a lot of demand for the camps,” Moyer said, noting the obvious.

Anatomy, paintball … explosives? Yep, there’s a camp for that, too. There’s probably something for everyone. Camps can last for a couple of days to a month or more, and costs can run from a couple hundred dollars to well into the thousands (check out the camps’ websites for details on costs, dates, deadlines and other specifics).

Camp it up!

Here are a few other summer camps where boating and hiking aren’t the main features.

Lumberjack camp: The Adirondack Woodsmen’s School at Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smiths, N.Y., offers traditional lumberjack fare: carving a dugout canoe, building a fire without matches, throwing an ax, growing a beard and competing in lumberjack events. It’s open to all ages, starting with kids entering their senior year of high school. The camp has beginner, intermediate and advanced sessions that must be taken sequentially. More information at www.adirondack?woodsmensschool.com. Flannel shirts optional.

Bluegrass camp: NashCamp near Nashville is for adults, but does accept kids older than 16 (and younger if they attend with a parent or guardian). There’s a weeklong bluegrass and songwriting camp, and the Sonny Osborne Banjo Camp. www.nashcamp.com.

Firefighter camp: Camp Fully Involved (http://camp?fullyinvolved.com) is a six-day camp at the New Hampshire Fire Academy in Concord. Girls ages 14 to 18 who are considering a career in firefighting get hands-on experience in vehicle, room and trash bin fires, rappelling, firetruck operations and other aspects of the job.

Good manners camp: “Camp” is probably the wrong word for the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette’s Teen Image Development Program. Here you will learn handshaking techniques. (At camp, you learn the art of the wedgie.) The weeklong program is open to ages 14 to 18. Sessions are during the day but overnight accommodations are available. www.charlestonschoolofprotocol.com.

Veterinarian camp: Where are the veterinarians of tomorrow coming from? Chances are more than a few will have passed through Boiler Vet Camp at Purdue University (www.vet.purdue.edu/boilervetcamp). Kids entering grades eight through 12 learn what it takes to become a vet or vet tech. For information, email boilervetcamp@purdue.edu.

Folk dancing camp: Old folk dance traditions are kept alive every summer at Brigham Young University’s dance camps (http://home.byu.edu; enter “dance camp” in search field). Boys and girls ages 9-18, at all skill levels, learn dances from the world over. If your kid is too snooty to kick up his or her heels at folk dancing, BYU also has a ballroom dance camp. That’ll teach ’em.

Explosives camp: Want to get your kid’s attention? Ask him if he wants to go to explosives camp. At the Missouri University of Science and Technology Explosives Camp, students (11th- and 12th-graders, 16 and older) learn about things like priming and detonating dynamite, explosives-related careers and, most important, safety. Beavis and Butt-head types need not apply; the application process is serious. Check it out at http://precollege.mst.edu/explosives.html.

Secular camp: Many camp brochures talk about bringing kids closer to God. Camp Quest, in Bloomingdale, Mich., is different. The website (http://michigan.campquest.org) says it is a “secular residential summer camp for the children of atheists, agnostics, humanists and free thinkers,” and its purpose is “to provide children of irreligious parents with a residential summer camp, dedicated to improving the human condition through rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, scientific method, self-respect, ethics, competency, democracy, free speech, and the separation of religion and government guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”

Clown camp: Camp Winnarainbow is a circus and performing arts camp. Located near Laytonville, Calif., the camp teaches timing, balance and a sense of humor. And if that’s not enough to get your kid to pack those size-26 shoes, the camp director is Wavy Gravy. Yes, the Wavy Gravy, the Woodstock emcee and noted peace activist. Sessions range from one to nine weeks. http://campwinnarainbow.org.

Shakespeare camp: The Idaho Shakespeare Festival holds camps for budding Shakespeareans ages 3 to 18. These are day camps, but there are hotels in Boise, thou crusty botch of nature (Troilus and Cressida, if you need to ask). Students are divided by age into five camps. The youngest ones attend five one-hour sessions; classes for the most advanced (oldest) students are four hours a day for three weeks. www.idahoshake?speare.org/summer-camps.

Forensics camp: Richard Stockton College in Pomona, N.J., is home to Stockton CSI Camp, where high school students investigate a staged murder scene, gather evidence, visit a prison, find a suspect and have a trial. Campers learn questioning techniques and about such fun things as blood typing, splatter analysis, forensic odontology (bite marks), hair and fibers. Justice is swift: It’s a five-day camp. http://loki.stockton.edu/stockcsi/?index.html.

Surf camp: Weeklong camps in Hawaii, North Carolina, Barbados, Costa Rica and Florida. www.wbsurfcamp.com/camps/camp_teen.asp.

Archaeology camp: A three-week field school at Colorado’s Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. www.crowcanyon.org/archaeology.

Sea turtle camp: In North Carolina, six sessions for kids 13-17. www.seaturtlecamp.com.

Space camp: Kids 9 to 11 learn all about being an astronaut at this Huntsville, Ala., camp. www.spacecamp.com.

Tall ship camp: 7-, 13- and 20-day trips out of Long Beach, Calif. www.guideddiscoveries.?org/tallshipsummersailing.html.