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. Those are 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. She is the 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.
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. 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 weekfor full day camp. Discounts are available to those who register early and some scholarships are available.
For older kids looking for a sleep-away experience, options include BEAM Camp. It is 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. He 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. That helps broaden their ideas about creative career options. The camps are open to boys and girls. They are expensive, with a $5,200 price tag. But Cohen said about 40 percent of campers receive partial or full scholarships.
Emagination is a much larger summer camp. It focuses on coding, game design and other computer skills. The camp offers day camp and sleep-away options for kids ages 8 to 17. It operates 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.
Critical thinking challenge: Why do STEM-oriented summer camps often include swimming?
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