Youthful shrieks and the slap of feet on mats fill the air at Southwest Gymnastics Training Center, drifting past a climbing rope and floor-level trampoline. Coaches preside over the 10,500-square-foot facility, improving more than somersaults?they also help give kids the self-esteem and discipline to excel in school or run a successful ant farm. The safety-certified coaches encourage positive traits in their young charges during recreational and competitive classes for ages 18 months to 18 years. Designed to adhere to USA Gymnastics guidelines, the curriculum helps kids build skills in a logical order, ensuring that no one has to do a cartwheel before learning what a wheel is.
The coaches also teach trampoline and tumbling skills, occasionally retiring to the sidelines to supervise open gym sessions. During these unstructured play sessions, kids can safely experiment with any equipment or practice pushing a wheelbarrow full of gold medals. Recreational classes for girls aged 6?18, boys aged 6?18, little ones aged 18 months?5 years, and athletic action figures, as well as competitive classes for advanced-level acrobats. Tumbling and trampoline lessons build knowledge of the sport, with a bouncier surface than a circus seal's mattress.
In 1966, Big Surf Waterpark founder Phil Dexter built his first model of a wave machine in his backyard, a place he affectionally named Tahiti Phil's. With some help, and several models later?including one assembled inside an abandoned billiards hall?he perfected the contraption, making it the centerpiece of his newly opened waterpark in 1969. Dexter's invention instantly snagged press from Time, Sports Illustrated, and Life, and today, it remains Big Surf Waterpark's 2.5-million-gallon keynote attraction. One of Big Surf Waterpark's newest attractions is the Mauna Kea Zip Line, which starts high in the air before zipping over the wave pool. Over the years, despite Arizona's lack of rain or gigantic sprinkler, the park has managed to grow around the wave pool, and its current 20-acre campus features dozens of slides, rides, and areas for all ages. Big Surf's real estate has also played host to entertainment events, including concerts from Pink Floyd, Elton John, and the Beach Boys.
There’s little left in Tucson to suggest that back in the mid-19th-century the city served as the Southwest’s hub for highway robbers. But it's a fact that the area hosted a string of stagecoach holdups and served as the starting point for Wyatt Earp’s infamous vendetta ride. At the Arizona History Museum, relics stand testament to this harrowed past, including an original Concord stagecoach, not unlike those whose occupants were forced to surrender their valuables to roadside brigands. The museum doesn’t only explore infamy, though; it illuminates all the forces that took part in Tucson’s transition from Paleo-Indian hunting ground to Spanish colonial outpost to the commercial center it is today. Exhibits cover this vast span of time creatively, including a full-size replica of an underground mine that provides a glimpse into early-20th-century working conditions, hands-on exhibits that recall the day-to-day lives of Native Americans, and archaeology displays that detail the surrounding environment's history over the past 4,000 years.
A safe space. That's what the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley give to more than 43,000 kids each year. But along with keeping kids out of harm's way after school lets out, the Boys & Girls Clubs enrich children's lives though their programs. Kids get creative in arts classes, learn social interaction and fitness skills in sports programs, and prepare for the future with technology courses that ensure they won't buy stock in companies that only produce floppy discs.
But the Boys & Girls Clubs impact kids beyond afterschool care. In addition to the East Valley clubs having the first Arizona club to serve a Native American community, the clubs' Ladmo branch has Mona Dixon, who was named National Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2010.
Her path of success, encouraged by the Boys & Girls Clubs, led her from a girl homeless and worried about her family's survival to a young woman with a full ride to college and named one of the Top 28 Most Influential Black Women in America by Essence magazine.
At Hegel Yoga, instructors delve deep into yogic studies with classes that teach postures, breathing, and meditation. The studio offers a unique, eight-week yoga anatomy class that teaches how the muscles, breath, and respiratory systems interact with each other during each movement and pose throughout a yoga practice. Instructors also nurture each student?s exploration of Ashtanga technique, with beginning level classes that focus on foundational postures, movements, and mindful breathing.
As students progress they build strength and endurance through standing postures, while slower floor postures help release tension in the hips and spine. Hegel also offers open practice sessions, where students may practice alongside an instructor. These sessions allow students to work in a meditative space at their own pace with movement and breathing guiding the class.
"I'm bored!" is probably the most common phrase uttered by children out of school for the summer. Even inundated with an abundance of toys, games, and technology, kids still want more. Instead of getting them yet another magical centaur, parents can keep their offspring occupied with one of Arizona Summer Camps's diversions. The camp teams up with a variety of local businesses to present a diverse array of summer camps to engage the minds and bodies of youths. The quality of instruction is top-notch, and the student-to-teacher ratios are kept low.
Kids can expand their horizons with science-driven experimentation in fields such as robotics or computer gaming, or break a sweat and a few boards in one of several martial-arts camps. Gymnastics camps bolster coordination and strength in wee ones.