As parents launch full steam ahead into summer planning, many are thinking about how to make the most of this glorious ten weeks of “out of school time”. We say “glorious” with a bit of sarcasm as 10 weeks is a lot of time and can be hard to fill, especially for working parents.
The path that a lot of parents take is to choose some activities that continue to build on the momentum of the school year. You want your children to get a break from their regular routine but you also don’t want them to lose any of what they’ve gained academically over the year. Plus, you want to ready them for the year ahead and the next grade’s challenges.
To this we say two magic words, “Summer Camp”. Now, some of you thought we’d say our two magic words are “Camp EDMO” (and they are) but the bottom line is you are going to pick a mix of camps if you can. What we want to convey however is that maybe one should be a high quality STEAM camp where kids not only participate in fun, hands-on Science, Tech, Art or Maker activities but where they gain life skills along the way.
For younger children, particularly those who have not yet entered Kindergarten, participation in a STEAM camp is a great way to:
- Test the waters and get an early glimpse of what’s to come; such as having a structured day, following rules or taking responsibility for their belongings.
- Learn to make a break from Mom or Dad. Being dropped off for a day full of fun and friends can be a little less scary for kids than going to the first day of school.
- Introduce your child to new activities and skills. Your kids will have fun while they develop new interests and practice skills like curiosity, teamwork, kindness, or self-confidence.
- Build social skills. Summer camp allows children to practice making friends and interact with kids from diverse backgrounds.
We may not need to sell you on the benefits of camp for older kids but you may wonder why STEAM? Don’t they get enough in school?
- First, summer camp provides campers with an alternative environment in which to learn. Camp after all is a more informal, laid back setting with no homework or tests – yay!
- Second, the whole point of summer camp is for kids to have fun. So it goes without saying that camp activities are designed to emphasize fun, even those related to subject areas in which students are traditionally less than enthusiastic. Ever heard “Ewwwww, science”?
- Third, at camp, there is a healthy mixture of activity, with a good part of the day involved in playing games, being outdoors, participating in challenges, etc. So, activities that could be perceived as educational are mixed in with those that bring balance, and laughter.
Although STEAM summer camps don’t replace school, they may still inspire future scientists, technologists, engineers, or mathematicians by encouraging campers to explore these subjects in ways that they might not get to during the school year. Some campers may even carry a new interest in these subject areas home and take on a new enthusiasm at school, making a STEAM summer camp an invaluable addition to their summer lineup. In fact, research shows that student interest in STEAM careers may start from early experiences before middle school.