FULL S.T.E.A.M. AHEAD!
Story by Liesel Schmidt
WHAT DO I DO WITH MY KID THIS SUMMER?
As we approach summer, the question every parent faces during this part of the year looms large: “What do I do with my kid?”
If you’re like most parents, you want more for your offspring than to watch them slink off toward their bedrooms every morning after breakfast to glue their faces to their devices. Sure, it’s an effective way to keep them occupied, but does it keep them learning? Therein lies both the question and the answer to the conundrum of what to do with your child this year when school lets out for the summer. You want them to have fun, but also to learn something while they’re off singing “Kumbaya” and roasting marshmallows—which is where educational summer camps like STEAM camps come into play.
WHAT IS S.T.E.A.M.?
Over the past decade, there has been growing attention to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but those core tenets have been expanded to include art—naturally, reimagining the term to STEAM. All of the left-brain learning is complemented by the creativity of the right brain, more fully engaging and allowing the artistic nature in a child to be explored.
So why all this alternative learning? As children get older, the concepts and skills learned through STEAM become invaluable, which is why schools have pushed them so hard in recent years.
At its core, STEAM education is about becoming a self-reliant, independent thinker. Kids are allowed to think, assess and conclude how to best achieve their goals and complete projects. Unlike the grading system of conventional education, it is the way of thinking that is the most important. In fact, the idea that making mistakes is sometimes a part of the process and that failure can be productive is both encouraged and reinforced with kids. Learners go at their own pace and skill level, which means they can immerse themselves in foundational concepts as they begin or challenge themselves by working with more complex concepts. Because there is a free-flowing exchange of ideas unbound by intellectual constraints or fear of failure, there is more freedom to learn and explore.
All of this makes STEAM camps a great way to encourage kids to learn. It’s more than just education for education’s sake. It brings science, tech, engineering, art and math into the functional realm, connecting the various educational tenets to a more graspable concept than words on a page in a textbook or on a screen. There is also no pressure to get good grades. It’s more about the journey than the specific destination, which allows kids to explore and be more creative.
From robotics and video game creation, to oceanography and emergency medicine, children see the real-life impact of science. Many STEAM camps are taught by professionals in the industries of science or engineering. Appealing to kids who may be interested in things other than coding or robotics, STEAM camps often offer activities such as cooking, rafting and hiking to give students a peek at the way STEAM concepts apply to real-life concepts. At STEAM camps, kids also have the chance to emphasize the arts element by creating something and using their imaginations in problem-solving.
STEAM camps also prevent the learning loss that so often comes from the doldrums of summer. The camps provide continued learning in a low-pressure environment that builds their skills in math, reading and science—which also helps with the upcoming school year. It’s a win-win for both you and your kid.
Parents of girls will also see a boost of confidence in their kids, as the encouragement they are given in the judgement-free environment of STEAM camps and programs has been proven to build the self-confidence they need to pursue these fields later on. The different learning that is facilitated is one reason that STEAM is so beneficial to students of various ages and abilities.
Parents of girls will also see a boost of confidence in their kids, as the encouragement they are given in the judgement-free environment of STEAM camps and programs has been proven to build the self-confidence they need to pursue these fields later on.
Naturally, the camp environment provides something that is extremely beneficial to kids, especially in the era of social media and screen-driven interaction: face-to-face social contact with other kids and adults. STEAM camps are great for developing social skills, and they force camp-goers to navigate relationships with their fellow campers as well as their counselors—all of which translate into the real-world environment that they will face later on, whether in school or as they become adults.
Fortunately, Alexandria has a number of STEAM and STEM camps for summer fun. For kids who want to learn tech skills like coding, Code Ninjas offers programs throughout the summer months including game coding, game design, movie making, coding cartoons, creating stop-motion animation, programming, developing a YouTube channel, web development and robotics.
CODE NINJAS - ALEXANDRIA
4694 King St Suite 15, Alexandria
Open since November 2019, Code Ninjas Alexandria offers week-long summer camps as well as day camps during the school year, in addition to STEM socials and Thursday night STEM clubs. “The STEM socials are kind of like a parents' night out,” says Code Ninja Director of Marketing/Events, Cassidy Olimpo. “Kids come to the center for STEM activities, pizza and a movie. Our weekly STEM clubs explore different STEM topics such as stop motion animation, robotics, coding and so much more.”
Explore Code Ninjas Alexandria's camps HERE. The website includes each camp description and easy sign-up. If there is no space in the desired camp, a waitlist is offered.
STEVE + KATE'S CAMP
2400 Russell Rd, Alexandria
Focusing more on the creativity side of STEAM, Steve and Kate’s Camp is filled with programs designed to teach kids independent thinking by putting them in charge of their own learning experience. Campers choose from a variety of activities and design their day at camp, which ultimately gives them the space to try, fail and learn on their own—and, in turn, teach them skills to be confident in themselves and their own skills. Summer activities include game coding and media creation in the Media Lab, performing arts, sewing and embroidery, baking, crafts, sports and other fun ways to burn off some of that energy that kids always seem to have.
Created in 1989 in Mill Valley, California, Steve and Kate’s Camp has a story as unique as the camps themselves. “Once upon a time, two visionaries dared to ask ‘what if’ before completely reimagining what summer camp could be,' explains Sarah Hewitt, Senior Marketing Manager. “It was 1980. Steve sported denim shorts as a religion and Kate rocked Reeboks to aerobics. Both had a passion for camp, but traditional camps had two crucial flaws: kids participated in activities based on age, not interests, and parents had to pay non-refundable fees. Camps weren’t responsive to people’s actual needs. So, they built a camp where kids were in charge of their choices and parents could buy any number of day passes, attend camp any time and get automatic refunds for any unused passes. To this day, the company is still just as obsessed with addressing individual kids’ needs.'
Families can buy any number of camp days to use throughout summer–no advanced weekly reservations required. Summer passes covering the entire camp season are also available. All passes include lunch, snacks, activities and all hours (8am to 6pm), so there are no surprise fees later on. Families can learn more and register for camp HERE.