Science camps: We need to go beyond the experiments

It’s that time of the year when parents start to register kids for summer camps. I sought innovative and fun science day camps for my 6 year old son. I made my short list of contenders and already registered him to two weekly camps that seem awesome. I’m writing this because my STEM camp search also raised a few flags.

Frankly, I expected a lot more varieties and more availability. It’s a given that most science camps are located in big cities. The best ones are often associated with universities and museums. With all the sources of information that you found online to inspire the design of these camps, I was surprised that we can’t get more science camps in suburbia.

This brings me to my biggest deception: the lack of imagination of the activities provided to the kids. Some programs seem to repeat the same themes or the same old experiments over and over. My neighbour made the same comment the other day when we discussed the after-school programs offered at a local school. Her comment says a lot because they aren’t geeks like my husband and I.

As an innovative mom, I would like to see a move away from the one-hour cookie-cutter experiment. I would like kids to do their own projects.

It’s certain that kids who love science and building stuffs have way more choices for after-school programs and day camps than when I was a kid. But we can do a lot better to raise the next generation of engineers, scientists, developers, inventors, makers, and problem solvers. I can’t excuse the lack of imagination in the science camp offerings. Science touches every aspect of our life. Just a look at recent scientific discoveries or the challenges that we are facing could result in many cool camp ideas.

My aim is that kids age 6 and up have more opportunities to put in practice design thinking. I want young school-age children to be able to imagine and realize a project from A to Z. Yes, they might need our help to do it but they are often more capable than what we give them credit for. As a society, we need to provide kids with places where they can discover on their own, build prototypes and explore more deeply the concepts they are learning.

The more I think about it, the more I see why I was disappointed with my science camp search. It’s because I have a specific camp experience in mind. What I want for my son is a bunch of science and STEM camps that feel like visiting the most progressive makerspace for days in a row.

Photo credits: Wikipedia Commons