Your guide to family events, stories and news in Western Wisconsin.


Plug in to Virtual Summer Learning

here’s what you need to know about the proliferation of online educational options

Blugold Beginnings Robotics Class
Blugold Beginnings Robotics Class

In addition to lazy days filled with squirt-gun fights, bike rides, and (way too many) video games, for many kids summers are also time for sleep-away camps, parks and rec classes, summer schools, and other enrichment activities.

If you’re a parent, we don’t have to tell you that this summer is different. Lingering concerns about the coronavirus have led to the cancelation of numerous traditional summer options, from overnights at Camp Manitou to in-person library programs and everything in between.

But this doesn’t mean your family faces any entirely unstructured summer. Some options remain, and many others have been adjusted to conform to coronavirus-driven restrictions. Below, we’ve compiled some of the activities available to kids in the Chippewa Valley seeking fun, excitement, and education in the coming months.


Altoona’s summer RAIL Program is meant for kids entering kindergarten through eighth grade. While the June session was canceled, the July session is still moving ahead. It will run July 6-23, Monday-Friday, 8:30am-1pm. The registration deadline will be June 28 or when classes are filled. Class descriptions, schedules, and registration information can be found here.


UW-Eau Claire’s Blugold Beginnings program is shifting its educational summer camps online this year. During June and July, Blugold Beginnings will offer numerous camps designed for kids from third grade through high school, including “Biomedical, Kinesiology and Nursing Camp,” “Art, Language, and Culture Camp,” “STEAM Camp,” “Robotics,” and “Coding Camp.”

“Students will be assigned to small camp groups with a Blugold Beginnings AmeriCorps counselor, just like we do during our face-to-face camps,” Blugold Beginnings Director Thesing-Ritter said. “This will help students make personal connections throughout the week, which always has been a valuable part of our camps.”

Project materials will be delivered to students the week before the camps begin, and camps will require access to a computer and Wi-Fi technology. However, Blugold Beginnings can provide access to the necessary technology for students who need it. The classes are $60 per student, but are free to students in the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls school districts, and scholarships are also available to students in other districts who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Registration opened May 11 and will continue until all spots are filled, so if you’re interested, act fast. Register online, or contact or (715) 836-3015 to learn more.


Instead of in-person summer programs, the Chippewa Falls school district is offering a virtual “Summer of Learning” program for kids at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Virtual programming runs Monday through Thursday June 8 to July 2. While that means it will have already started by the time you read this, no registration is required, so you may still be able to jump on board. Learn more online by visiting and clicking on “Summer of Learning Information.”


The Chippewa Valley Museum’s “Time Travelers” summer enrichment classes for K-6 students have gone virtual as well. Classes will be a combination of live presentations and recorded videos and will include home projects. (Participants can pick up the necessary materials at the museum.) Internet access and a device that can run Microsoft Team Chat are required. Classes include “Inventor’s Workshop” (July 15), “Digging Up the Past” (July 22), “Homesteaders” (July 29), “Sounds of Home” (Aug. 5), and “History Foodies” (Aug. 12). Each class costs $8 plus material feeds, but museum members only pay material fees. To learn more or register, visit online.


In addition to forcing an abrupt end to the in-person school year in March, the pandemic has pushed all the Eau Claire school district’s typically robust lineup of face-to-face summer programming online. While registration for middle and high school programs closed May 31, registration for elementary programming opened June 1, and closes July 3. Depending on the school, classes will have your kids making art, learning about nature, or even playing the ukulele! Classes will be free, and Internet access will be a necessity, but the district will make devices available for kids who need them. There are far too many options to list here, so visit online for full details.


As of this writing, things are still in flux for the slate of summer programs – such as swimming lessons, first aid and babysitter training, and numerous sport, game, and cooking classes – offered through Eau Claire Parks and Recreation. On June 1, the department announced that “summer activities scheduled to begin in June have been canceled, postponed, or modified.” Activities are scheduled to begin in phases starting in July, but approval from public health officials is still needed. You can learn more by visiting online, emailing, or calling (715) 839-5032.

This was made by

Tom Giffey  author

Tom Giffey, managing editor of Volume One, has been an award-winning media professional in the Chippewa Valley for more than 20 years.