For kids whose dream summer camp involves more coding than canoeing, more technology than tennis and more science than swimming, STEM summer camps are popular and plentiful.
The camps range from private half-day camps for younger children to longer sleep-away camps for teenagers. The camps cater to kids who are passionate about STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math). These camps are for kids who just love to immerse themselves in projects involving thinking creatively and problem-solving.
"We're definitely seeing a lot more summer programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math. And also programs that combined those elements with art," said Kathy Heraghty, program director and founder of Destination Science, based in Orange, California. The group began in California in 2000. Now it runs summer camps for children ages 5 to 11 in five states.
"The education system is slowly coming around to putting more emphasis on the sciences. And parents are also beginning to change some pretty old-fashioned ideas about summer camps and also about science, which is about way more than data and Bunsen burners," she said.
STEM-oriented summer camps often include more traditional summer pursuits like swimming and crafts. But the focus is on the fun of "thinking like a scientist" in more depth than is often possible during the school year.
"We focus on things that are playful and fun and that kids can connect to, like building a really cool car with a solar cell," Heraghty said.
"This summer we are introducing a Super Heroes camp that takes a closer look at bats and spiders and things like warp speed. And robotics and robots are also always exciting to kids."
The camps cost $379 per week for full day camp. Discounts are available to those who register early and some scholarships available.
For older kids looking for a sleep-away experience, options include BEAM Camp, in Stafford, New Hampshire. It offers three-and-a-half-week camps for kids ages 10 to 17.
"We're a camp about making things and bringing ideas to life," said co-founder Brian Cohen, who shuns the STEM label because, he said, the emphasis should be on the human side of things and "fashioning physical reality," not on abstract concepts.
In addition to building and problem-solving, campers swim daily and spend time with chefs, artists, architects and engineers to help broaden their ideas about creative career options. The camps, open to boys and girls, have a hefty $5,200 price tag, but Cohen said about 40 percent of campers receive partial or full scholarships.
Emagination, a much larger summer camp focusing on coding, game design and other computer skills, offers day camp and sleep-away options for kids ages 8 to 17 in five major cities in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Camps range in price from $845 per week for day camp to almost $3,000 for some two-week programs. As with many science camps, some scholarships are available.
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