How to Choose a STEM Summer Camp for Your Kid?

May 20, 2022 | Location Snoqualmie

Does STEM Come to Mind When You Think About Summer Camp? It Should!

You might be surprised to learn that thousands of summer camps and across the United States offer Science (S), Technology (T), Engineering (E), Mathematics (M) as part of their summer-fun lineup—and in support of an increasing committment to supporting and strengthening STEM skills.

Like all other summer camps,STEM-related summer programs are an American right of passage: hours of fun with friends, away from parents, no textbooks, no tests, no homework. The difference is that a summer science camp also offers students of all ages an opportunity to really explore science in all its hands-on, fun, goopy, messy, glory, without the burden of needing to know the 'right' answer for Wednesday's quiz.

STEM camps come in a wide variety of formats. There are focusing on every aspect of science and engineering as well as math you can imagine: robotics, programming and coding, architecture, space science, and math challenges, to name just a few! These programs use fun and play to help teach and introduce science and engineering concepts. For example, a week-long day camp focusing on amusement park physics might have kids exploring centripetal force, and kinetic and potential energy, while riding real amusement park rides and building their own mini versions from LEGO blocks, buckets, string, or foam tubing. When done right, STEM camp is a combination that is super fun and engaging, and fosters learning and creativity.

Why Attend a STEM Camp? The advantages of attending a science camp or program can be summarized by a simple equation:

Summer + Camp + STEM = 3x Fun + Real Learning

STEM camps fall under the umbrella of what is commonly called informal science learning. Recent studies show that informal science learning is one of the most effective ways people learn science, technology and mathematics. Students who participate in these types of activities are more likely to have an above-average understanding of science and mastering math skills, and pursue STEM-related careers.

For all students, STEM camp can be the opportunity to explore a branch of STEM knowledge that might not be available in their school, like marine technology or aerospace, or to cover a topic more in depth than they'd otherwise be able to.

How Do I Choose a Summer STEM Camp? Choosing a summer STEM camp is similar to choosing any other type of camp. You have your usual considerations about cost, distance from home, and amount of time, along with the question of finding the "best fit." For STEM camps, the "best fit" often boils down to figuring out what STEM topic(s) are of interest and finding a camp that does a good job of implementing those.

Figure out what STEM topic(s) are of interest. Older children might already have a clear preference. Perhaps they're keen on video games and would love to go to a camp where they could design and program one. Or maybe they're into hiking and wildlife and are looking for an outdoor experience as a junior park ranger. Their hobbies and reading choices are often a good indicator of their interests.

Younger children might not yet have a clear preference. If they don't, then look for camps that offer a wide variety of science and engineering topics for them to explore. For example, the LEGO® Education lesson is always a popular program for kids to learn how to program a robot, or any other balance agenda that has a blend of science, arts, and physical activities.

Also, any camp needs the outdoor activity agenda even a camp more focus on STEM theme,mit's the one indispensable part to make the kids has the balance with indoor and outdoor activities.

Determine the level of "academics" you want. STEM camp should always be fun. A good STEM camp will allow students plenty of time to do hands-on exploration. This is part of the informal component. How much additional formal education a STEM camp has varies. Programs that incorporate lectures from distinguished professors or professionals might be appropriate, inspirational, and informative for older students who are interested in a specific field. Younger students are more likely to benefit from group activities, projects, and interactions with informed camp counselors rather than lectures.

Search for a camp that fits your needs. Once you know the range of STEM topics you'd like the camp to cover, the level of academics, the general geographic location, and the time and money commitments that are right for your family, you're ready to start searching.

Local parenting magazines, social media and websites might have lists of camps in your area. Science museums, student learning centers, and state or national parks are also great resources, as they often run their own camps and/or link to STEM camps with similar interests.

Many colleges and universities also run summer science camps. A simple search for "summer STEM camp" on a local academic institution's website is a good way to find these.

Simple web browser searches can also turn up a wealth of information.

Make sure you choose a camp with qualified counselors. Once you've located some camps that meet your search parameters, you should do some legwork to make sure that the counselors—the people the campers interact with all day long—are knowledgeable about STEM.

Ask the camp or center director questions aimed at making sure the counselors have had ample formal training in the subject area(s) and excel at explaining the STEM in an engaging, age-appropriate manner.

Here's a Tip: Register Early! While summer might seem a long way off, it's time to start thinking about summer camps. Many top camps offer "early bird" registration discounts in the March-May timeframe (check camp websites for specific camp deadlines).

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