San Francisco Zoo (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Summer vacation offers an opportunity for kids and teens to take charge of their learning. Summer is the perfect time to learn the “how to’s” of the fun, creative and skill-building activities they have been thinking about all year. Here are five terrific options for summertime educational activities in San Francisco.

Camp Galileo
Presidio Middle School
450 30th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 9421
(800) 854-3684

Budding innovators will feel they’ve found the right place to explore and create without fear of making mistakes. Camps are designed to inspire pre-K through fifth graders and liberate their creativity with weekly theme adventures that, according to Camp Galileo, “Combine art, science and outdoor activities into whimsical narratives that keep kids giggling and engaged.” Themes this summer are Adventures Down Under, Galileo Road Trip, The Incredible Human Body and Leonardo’s Apprentice. Camps are designed with kids’ ages in mind, and the older they get, the more freedom they are given to “delve deeper into art and science concepts, use more advanced materials and tackle more complex team-building challenges.” Extended care, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., plus an optional healthy lunch program are available. There are 40 locations around the Bay Area: prices depend on location, theme and number of weeks.

Zoo Camp
San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
1 Zoo Road
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 753-8135

Kids have a wild time at the San Francisco Zoo where camps happen during spring, summer and winter breaks. Summer camp offers educational and entertaining day camp adventures where campers pre-K through seventh grade learn about the world of animals, wildlife and conservation practices in age-appropriate activities. Camps run through mid-August. Visit the website’s Summer Zoo Camps page to see the Zoo Camp brochure for detailed information and registration.

Sprouts Cooking Club Summer Camp 2014
Various Locations
San Francisco, CA

The Sprouts mission is pretty simple, yet aims for robust results. Sprouts Cooking Club strives to teach Bay Area kids and teens from all social and economic backgrounds not just how to cook, but also how to cook with hands-on guidance from real chefs, using honest ingredients and in real restaurants as much as possible. These are different types of camps, and total participation and motivation to learn are essential. With week-long summer camps in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco, Sprouts can engage children from several Bay Area locations. There are three one-week summer camp sessions in San Francisco, running from July 14 to August 1, with locations at Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building. Applications are reviewed and participants are selected based on criteria the professional staff feels would serve campers best, with motivation and the impetus to learn as crucial deciding factors for selection. The cost is $495 for each session, and scholarships are available. Visit the website for complete information plus registration and scholarship details.

Summer Youth Tennis Clinics
Presidio Community YMCA
63 Funston Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 447-9622

The Presidio Community YMCA, set in a totally unique park setting, is an excellent resource for the city’s varied families. The facility provides programs and social opportunities to help strengthen and enrich families, and is a leading youth development organization. The programs, sports, social and educational activities available here are practically endless and ongoing all year long. Summer presents a special time for kids to enjoy learning something really fun, and return to school in the fall energized and with newly acquired skills. One popular sports activity is the Presidio YMCA 2014 Summer Youth Tennis Clinics program. There are several week-long options for youth ages five to 15, from June 16 through August 22. See the brochure here for complete information.

Randall Museum
Summer Camps 2014
199 Museum Way
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 554-9600

The Randall Museum is a children’s museum with a goal to nurture a love of science, natural history and the arts. From this mission, the museum highlights exhibits, classes and workshops, presentations, special events and more, with enjoyable hands-on learning activities that all ages can enjoy. Summertime brings some of the best camps in the city, and both sleep-away and day camps are offered. Day camp sessions are two weeks long and include daily morning workshop, supervised lunch, plus an afternoon workshop. Dynamic learning opportunities such as inventions, earth art, gourmet garden adventures, space camp, breakdance challenge, theater games, hand-built habitats and so much more are offered for ages six to 12 for $440. There is also the Marine Explorers Fieldtrip Day Camp, a collaboration between the Randall Museum and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, with three sessions for ages eight to 12, June 20, June 27 and July 18 that are awesome. See the camp schedule here. Check the website for full details.

Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a member of an independent filmmaking group. Her work can be found at