Groundhog Day was just last week, but we parents already know what time it is regardless of Punxsutawney Phil’s predicting we’re in for another six weeks of winter. It’s summer camp sign-up season!
For a few weeks now, parents across the country have been organizing their summer calendars and scrambling to get online as soon as that perfect drama or nature camp’s registration goes “live.”
Oh, were you five minutes late registering? Say hello to the waiting list and move on to the next sleep-away or day camp’s website to try, try again.
A Wealth of Options for Summer Camp
When I was RocketteGirl and Lightning McQueen’s age, my summer camp options were limited. In fact, we didn’t start contemplating what to do with ourselves during summer break until it was already upon us. We didn’t have to. We couldn’t afford sleep away camps and the only day camp I knew was the “Summer Recreation” program at my elementary school, where we killed six hours a day, from mid-June to mid-July playing kickball and making multicolored, plastic twine key chains. To fill in the huge gaps, we simply roamed the neighborhood, with or without our friends.
But today, there seems to be an endless variety of camps from which parents and Nerds may choose for summer enrichment and entertainment. That includes a growing number of STEM/STEAM-related options. As always, Raising Nerd is here to help introduce you to – or remind you of – a few of the more Nerd-worthy summer camp alternatives.
With the increasing popularity and reach of programs like FIRST LEGO League, robotics camps have been popping up everywhere. Some of the newer organizations, like Fun Bot Lab, the premiere robotics camp in the Washington, DC, metro area, have set themselves apart by offering more than just a place for kids to go build competitive robots with LEGO Mindstorms kits (as cool as that is all on its own!).
FunBot’s founder and chief Fun Bot, Timothy Burns, likes to emphasize not only the “what?” and the “how?” of creating and programming cool robots, but also the “why.” Fun Bot Lab’s curriculum includes the essential element of creating a narrative to give the campers’ bots meaning and context. So that his campers leave the program with real-world skills they will need no matter what career path they eventually follow, Burns based his program on three pillars of learning: creating with your hands, learning to think algorithmically, and effectively communicating by telling a story.
In addition to its huge range of LEGO robotics activities, Fun Bot Lab also helps get kids creative with digital media, stop-motion animation, and other fun arts and crafts projects. Soon, Burns hopes to offer web-based camp modules to third-party organizations outside the DC market.”
Other Camps for Your Nerds to Explore
In addition to checking with your local community colleges and maker organizations, children’s and science museums, and parks and recreation facilities about STEM camp opportunities, you and your Nerds might be interested in exploring one of the following Nerdtastic camps, if available in your neck of the woods and within your budget:
A Washington, DC-based camp where kids in grades K-8 can blast into space or take center stage, create a masterpiece or invent a fantasy world, relive history, or learn to shape the future of the planet.
Open to current 3rd through 5th graders, the SEEK Program is designed to be a fun and engaging educational experience, led by NSBE engineering students and technical professionals dedicated to pursuing professional excellence and giving back to the community. The SEEK program utilizes a hands-on design curriculum. Students work in teams, using their knowledge to solve problems and create products while discovering the underlying math and science principles involved. Each week of the three-week summer program, students take on a new project, culminating with presentation, design, and physical competitions.
SEEK sites are typically local elementary or middle schools hosting anywhere from 50 to 100 students per grade level. Approximately 35 to 50 college and professional mentors manage, guide, and facilitate the high-quality STEM education program.
For rising kindergartners through 6th-graders, Camp Invention is a non-profit elementary enrichment program with locations nationwide and inspired by “the brightest thinkers around,” the National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees. During the camp’s week-long programs, children are presented with fun, hands-on challenges that encourage creative problem solving, teamwork, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Camp Invention is led by experienced local educators and new curriculum is introduced each year.
Last year’s camps were held in at least six cities across the country and featured 10 days of hands-on, project-based instruction, where young ladies ages 10-14 engaged in tech instruction. The camps ran six hours a day with lunch, breaks, community building, field trips and, of course, coding! The camps offer a space where girls of color can learn computer science and coding principles in the company of other girls like themselves and with mentorship from women they can see themselves becoming. And, according to the website, the Black Boys Code program is “coming soon.”
This camp for current 10th and 11th graders is a FREE, seven-week “camp” that teaches girls coding through project-based learning and also gives them exposure to a variety of technology jobs.
With multiple locations in cities around the country, Mad Science summer camps and vacation programs give kids the opportunity to embark on a science adventure while learning through interactive and hands-on science activities. Your Nerds will:
- Discover cool chemical reactions
- Build rockets and participate in their launch
- Check out security systems, cool spy equipment, and funky forensic tools used in real crime scene labs, and
- Build their very own working robot to take home.
The ultimate unique camp experience where kids from 4th grade through high school can work as a team and confront mission scenarios that require dynamic problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Space Camp® launched in 1982 to inspire and motivate young people from around the country to join the ranks of space pioneers who persevere to push the boundaries of human exploration. With the U.S. Space & Rocket Center® as home base, trainees have an unparalleled environment to spur imagination.
Additional programs are offered for trainees who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing and those who have other special needs. Space Camp programs are also available for adults, educators, corporate groups and families. Family programs may include children as young as seven years old.
Camp KSC® is a week-long day camp experience at Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s launch headquarters. KSC specializes in STEM learning at its best, offering hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math activities for students entering grades 2 through 9. At Camp KSC, your Nerds will:
- Participate as part of a team in hands-on challenges
- Learn about NASA’s future missions to Mars, asteroids and beyond
- Hear real-life stories from a veteran NASA astronaut
- Explore Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
- Meet campers from all over the world.
Has your Nerd signed up for or attended a cool STEM/STEAM-focused camp lately? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Let us and the Raising Nerd community know in the comments and, as always, Nerd on!