Summer camps aren’t just for swimming and s’mores anymore. Paddling canoes across the lake has been replaced with designing and building submersible vehicles. It’s not that today’s kids don’t enjoy their summer downtime and outdoor exploration—it’s that they’re increasingly interested in developing their skills and interests from coding to engineering to medicine even in their downtime.
A new breed of camps is responding to that demand with programs and access to tools and facilities formerly reserved for college-level learning. These new opportunities for applied learning are preparing students for bright futures.
Taking Tips From Higher Ed
Higher education is influencing this new breed of summer camp. Software platforms once learned at universities have come to middle and high school summer camps, allowing kids to get their hands on this technology earlier.
For example, the Nashville Technology Council in Tennessee offers summer camps with programs based on Raspberry Pi core technology to build robots; Minecraft and GitHub to learn coding; and more. Camp EDMO in Silicon Valley uses MIT App Inventor to teach middle-schoolers to design Android apps explore filmmaking with After Effects, among other programs. California’s Digital Media Academy’s summer programs teach CGI animation using Maya. Each of these camps allows for experiences that are not currently available in the typical classroom.
The Tools For The Job
Campers can even get their hands on hardware, maker tools, and labs. Drexel University in Philadelphia offers a summer neuroscience camp for advanced high-schoolers, leveraging the university’s own technically advanced microscopy and other lab facilities. High schools like New Jersey’s High Technology High School in Lincroft are also volunteering their spaces for middle-schoolers to program Arduino microcontrollers, build model maglev trains, create Flash animations, and solder basic circuits.
The use of new and engaging tools extends beyond school campuses. An Ohio summer camp utilizes 3-D printers, laser engravers, and vinyl cutters to develop CAD skills. Legos even take a high-tech twist at WaterBotics summer camp in New Jersey. Here, middle-schoolers design, program, and test mini underwater robots built from Legos, controllers, and other parts on a mission to rescue simulated drowning swimmers, clean up simulated oil spills, detonate simulated underwater mines, and salvage materials from mini shipwrecks.
Real World Application
Other summer camps are beginning to address life skills, soft skills and focused career choices in STEM, business and elsewhere. These camps allow students to see how technology will fit into various professions and assist them in future jobs.
Students in grades seven to 12 in a Georgia Tech-run summer camp can enroll in a course called “CEO of My Life.” This course not only introduces campers to 21st-century STEM careers, but also teaches team building, entrepreneurship, and problem solving to make them leaders of both businesses and their own lives.
In New Hampshire, Dartmouth College operates an intensive program for prospective physicians and other medical professionals in the 10th through 12th grades. This program allows campers to explore all areas of the medical field, from research scientist to healthcare administrator, to help narrow their future focus.
Takeaway: Summer camps have taken the leap into the 21st century, leveraging applied, professional and university-level activities to engage young minds in STEM topics, and provide early career-development. From the advancement in subject material to the availability of tools, campers have more opportunities to spend their summers in engaging ways than ever before. These programs even assist students in future career exploration and life skills building to ensure summer is just as productive as it is fun.
1. “Health Careers Institute at Dartmouth” The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. 2016.
2. “Choosing a Summer Coding Camp That’s Right for Your Kids” EdSurge. March 26, 2015.
3. “For High School Students Neuroscience Camp” Drexel University College of Medicine. 2016.
4. “Summer Brain Gain: 20+ Edtech Learning Opportunities for Educators and Students” EdSurge. May 21, 2014.
5. “One for the Ages! (all of them)” Camp EDMO. 2016.
6. “This Summer Exercise Your Child’s Mind & Stimulate A Desire To Learn?” Institute for Mathematics & Computer Science. 2016.
7. “Mentor Schools’ Summer Camps Go High Tech” Mentor Patch. March 14, 2016.
8. “2016 We Build Tech Summer Camps” Nashville Technology Council. 2016.
9. “WaterBotics Summer Academy 2016” Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education. 2016.