Teacher Insider: 5 steps to planning a STEM summer camp
Summer is approaching and we are pumped! We at Pitsco love summer not just because of the weather and all the fun things to do during this time, but because it means summer programs and camps! STEM camps, robotics camps, coding camps, you name it – we are here for them.
And this summer, as we are still figuring out how to serve our young learners, we want to support you in the mission of meeting students where they are. To get you started on your journey, whether you are starting a camp for the first time or are a seasoned camp leader, we gathered tips for you to start this season strong!
Summer Camp Ready
I was able to connect with one of our TAG members, Michael Clark, to provide insight on how to prepare for a STEM camp. Michael, who is also a STEM teacher and assistant director at Volusia County’s CTE program, shares his own experience and steps in planning the best summer camp!
Prepare, Prepare, and Prepare Create a plan with the end in mind. Include what you would like to try and accomplish each day. Then, try and break down what you would like to accomplish each day into a time schedule. In my experience, an activity I had allocated 5-10 minutes to complete could actually end up taking three to 10 times longer than what I had originally anticipated. That can also go in the other direction too; a culminating activity that you think might take an hour or two to wrap up might be cut short for a number of reasons. The campers might be ready to move on or the lunch delivery time could get bumped up, you never know! Be prepared and ready for whatever might come your way with Plans A, B, and C.
Balance Rigor and Fun When providing any summer experience, I try to be mindful of maintaining a high level of rigor but not at the cost of an overall enjoyable time. It is good to keep your expectations up as long as you keep your fun level up too. There is nothing better than getting campers to test an actual model they designed and built, like Pitsco’s SunZoon Lite Solar Car, outside in a head-to-head competition. Having campers on teams with designated roles can assist with gathering data, pictures, videos, and observations that they can use to redesign and retest in a rigorous way. This lets them back up their findings with facts and data compared to saying things like “it was cool” and not knowing the science, technology, engineering, and math behind the activity.
Make Real-World Connections “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” If you do not know the answer to that question yourself when you are planning your learning experience, then it is very likely that the learner will have a hard time making that connection too! Anytime you can add a real person or the name of an actual place into your challenge, scenario, or however you present what you are doing, the more buy-in you will get from your audience.
Look through the Lens of the Camper This school year has been challenging for many people and possibly in ways we might not even think of. Making sure that you are constantly being mindful of challenges many of us have faced is of utmost importance, and if that means you need to ~Go with the Flow~ and make modifications to your preliminary plan as new information comes to you, then that needs to be a priority. Try and put yourself in the position of the camper and, time permitting prior to the learning experience, create an example of/try each activity. This could help you anticipate issues that might pop up and give you time to come up with some solutions prior to the day when everything is coming at you fast and furiously!
Share it Out! Don’t be afraid to share what you are doing with the community. If your educational setting or someone you know has access to an educational setting, use that connection to put you in contact with their community outreach contact. Local newspapers, blogs, and social media platforms can all be used to create a positive buzz around what you are doing. Even if it is your first time – share it out!
Accelerate, Excite, Ignite
This summer, we want to help you provide ALL students learning experiences that praise their resiliency, nurture their growth, and build upon the knowledge and skills needed to start the journey toward a brighter future. And, to help you get started on your journey, our digital guide works by accelerating learning, exciting the mind, and igniting student passion.
We can’t wait to see how you create a new learning experience. Be sure to share your summer fun on social media! Have a great summer! ☀️
A few of Pitsco’s cool staffers contributed their knowledge and time to this post. We’re proud to have a great group of developers, writers, managers, builders, and creatives who can help bring the Pitsco Blog to life.