Fun and Education in One Package
Photos courtesy of iD Tech Camps
Whether your kid is a tech whiz, a budding scientist or just wants to try something new, local STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camps give her a chance to pursue her interest, learning life lessons along the way.
For young campers who are new to STEM education, interactive projects offer a great place to start. “Everything we do has a hands-on component,” says Javier Garay, program director at Engineering for Kids, which hosts week-long courses for 4- to 14-year-olds in the Greater Philadelphia area. “It’s the easiest way for them to grasp concepts that may not be intuitive to a child.”
Tying the topics into what campers already know is also vital. “It’s going to hit home better if we can relate it to their everyday lives and the things they see,” Garay says. “We hope this approach helps demystify some of these subjects that some kids might think are too challenging.” Campers in lower grades, for example, learn how to make bubbles, while older kids assemble their own flashlights.
Camp complements school
Although kids may associate STEM subjects with tests and homework, directors believe camp offers a more relaxed environment to enjoy these pursuits. Karen Thurn Safran, vice president of strategic partnerships at iD Tech Camps — held at locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey — says activities like themed dress-up days and social interactions outside the computer lab deliver a more traditional camp experience.
The atmosphere benefits kids who want to dig deeper into a longtime passion. Fola Adebi, director of Wow! Science Camp in Wilmington, DE, and Blackwood and Voorhees, NJ, gives campers in Kindergarten through ninth grade an up-close look at STEM fields through visits from scientists and projects that resemble a day in the life of a professional. Kids learn how to ask questions and build the research skills they need to answer them.
Garay warns that, in the more relaxed atmosphere of camp, “children may not realize they’re learning anything, so it’s important to ask questions and review concepts.”
Summer, he notes, is also the perfect time to pursue a new hobby: “Kids at camp should get out of their comfort zone and explore.”
“If your child loves playing with Legos and building things, let her take an engineering or robotics course,” Safran says. “If she likes it, she can foster that interest by joining or starting a club at school.”
Bringing it home
Life lessons learned at camp last long after summer break. “The most important thing about STEM is that it also teaches 21st-century skills,” such as thinking creatively and logically, collaborating with others and problem solving, Safran asserts. She says past campers have used their newfound knowledge to start community service projects and establish clubs.
Garay agrees: “STEM gives kids a way to approach problems; they’ll design something, build it and brainstorm ways to improve upon it. That’s at the core of any engineering-related problem, but it’s not only applicable to that.”
“It’s important that there are places for kids to study STEM over the summer in case there’s somebody who wants to be the next great astronaut or make an app that takes the world by storm,” he adds. “People are accomplishing these things at a younger age, and if camp can play a small part in inspiring them to do that, that’s great.”
Cheyenne Shaffer is resource editor for MetroKids. Photos courtesy of iD Tech Camps.