How to Choose a Summer Science Camp or Program
What activities do you associate with summer camp? Maybe making lanyards, tie-dying shirts, playing capture the flag, swimming, putting on a talent show, or painting macaroni?
What about science?
Does science come to mind when you think about summer camp? It should!
You might be surprised to learn that hundreds of camps and programs across the United States offer science as part of their summer-fun lineup—and in support of an increasing committment to supporting and strengthening science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills.
Like all other summer camps, science-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.
Science camps come in a wide variety of formats. There are day and residential camps focusing on every aspect of science and engineering you can imagine: robotics, chemistry, the environment, zoo animals, architecture, space science, and dinosaur fossils, 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, science camp is a combination that is super fun and engaging, and fosters learning and creativity.
Why attend a science camp?
The advantages of attending a science camp or program can be summarized by a simple equation:
Summer + Camp + Science = 3x Fun + Real Learning
Science 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. Students who participate in these types of activities are more likely to have an above-average understanding of science, and pursue science-related careers.
For younger children, science camp can introduce them to many different areas of science and give them the confidence and inspiration to embrace science at school. Older students, who are already interested in science, may use science camp as a way to explore what a specific science-related career would be like, or to meet mentors and role models in the field. Such connections could lead to other opportunities, like internships, or become a featured event on a resume or college application.
For all students, science camp can be the opportunity to explore a branch of science that might not be available in their school, like marine biology or aeronautics, or to cover a topic more in depth than they'd otherwise be able to.
How do I choose a summer science camp or program?
Choosing a summer science 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 science camps, the "best fit" often boils down to figuring out what science topic(s) are of interest and finding a camp that does a good job of implementing those.
Figure out what science topic(s) are of interest.
Determine the level of "academics" you want.
Search for camps that fit your needs.
Make sure you choose a camp or program with qualified counselors.
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 January-March timeframe (check camp websites for specific camp deadlines).
Find Out More
More information about the educational benefits of science camps and other informal education opportunities can be found here: