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Find an Academic Camp to Learn New Skills (or Hone Old Ones)

Kids mind mapping at SuperCamp.

Academic summer camps are a great option if you want to help your child combat summer learning loss or take a deep dive into subjects such as engineering, coding or robotics.

A survey from the National Summer Learning Association shows that 66 percent of teachers spend 3 to 4 weeks re-teaching material in the beginning of the school year due to summer learning loss, says Martha D. Cameron, director of Summer and Auxiliary Programs at Moorestown Friends School.

Fortunately, there is a wide variety of enrichment camps offered during the summer in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

STEM camps expand horizons

Campers can take part in hands-on learning outside of the school environment with camp counselors who are also classroom teachers, college professors and professionals. Justin Lavner, executive director of Lavner Camps, notes they recently sent their technology director to Tokyo to learn the latest about robotics and artificial intelligence for their robotics and AI camps.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects such as artificial intelligence, robotics and coding are a trend in summer-camp programs. This summer Lavner  is offering camps that include Java and Python programming and Spanish immersion as well as creative programs that focus on culinary arts, fashion design and filmmaking for children ages 5-15.

“Campers can learn a lot in the summer and truly excel. Rather than experiencing summer learning loss, they can attend camps that cover subject areas not offered at school,” says Lavner.

Finding the right mix of academic rigor, fun and exploration is key, says Cameron. “In my mind, academic camps allow children time to focus on learning something new, grow from something challenging, and develop group project skills working together as a team,” she says.

Have fun, boost skills at enrichment camps

Camps also offer students a chance to decompress from the rigors of the school year and learn how to love learning. SuperCamp, which offers six-day residential sessions for middle- and high school-age campers at Villanova University in July, focuses on using games and hands-on experiences to help campers improve their reading speed and comprehension, combat test-taking anxiety, improve their writing skills, and work on character development and leadership.

SuperCamp's leaders encourage campers to raise their hands and take part in games, dancing and problem-solving through trust-building and team-building activities. “We do something that’s different; we teach them how to learn versus what they should learn,” says Program Manager Charles Smith. “Because we teach them how to learn based on how the brain learns, we get them to want to learn, versus wanting just to gain information.”

The Pilot School in Wilmington, DE, is on a new campus that is adjacent to Woodlawn Reserve, so classroom and outdoor activity can be integrated. “Our speech pathologist for instance … might take a hike in the woods as we’re working on a concept or a skill,” says Director Alexandra Kokkoris. “It’s really married nature and learning together and the research is out there to show the benefits and the value of being in nature.

“I think at an academic camp, children can maintain the academic as well as the fun aspects of summer.”

Carol Anne Pagliotti is a freelance writer.

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