Believe it or not, summer camps aren’t just about campfire sing-alongs, Capture the Flag and screen-printing goofy T-shirts. In fact, this summer, you may want to consider sending your kids to a camp that incorporates STEM.
STEM, an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and math, has become increasingly buzzy over the past few years — it’s where all the jobs are, after all. Still, not every child is going to clamor at the chance to code or stare into a microscope all day long. Which is where more traditional camps can help. More and more general day camps are including STEM-based activities. These allow kids to actively learn while still allowing them their crafts and sports.
Alan Saltz, director of 92Y’s summer camp program, believes in the importance of incorporating STEM into everyday life. “Science isn’t just a subject that you can put into a box and take it out to teach kids,” he says. “It’s really got to become a part of their daily lives, and I think camps can help do that.” We caught up with Saltz, who gave us some benefits to STEM-infused camps.
They make learning fun
While some children may be put off by the idea of learning in the summer, the best camps know how to sneak science and math into kids’ favorite activities — whether that’s discovering the chemistry involved in ceramics or figuring out the mechanics of a soccer-ball kick. “If you make it fun, they’re not going to differentiate what they like and what they don’t like,” Saltz says.
They offer a balance between traditional camp activities and learning
Awesome as robots are, robotics camps aren’t for everyone. But throw in some robots interspersed with your cooking classes and extreme rafting, and kids are going to be much more amenable to, and excited about, them. “We’re really getting more mainstream camps to incorporate all this into what they’re doing, so not everyone has to go to specialty camp [to learn science],” says Saltz.
They prepare kids for the future
Saltz theorizes that science camps have become more popular in the U.S. because America has lagged behind much of the world in terms of education. “I think there’s a real push to make science and STEM subjects palpable to kids so that they digest them and that we are really accomplishing something,” he says. “I think people are waking up and saying that, when kids get older and they go into all these fields, they realize that the competition is very strong,” he says.