How STEM camps fill summer learning gaps


You’re familiar with summer brain drain, right? Perhaps your community calls it "the summer slide" or chooses to combat it with programs boasting “summer brain gain,” or other fun plays on words. 

No matter how you refer to the phenomenon, it’s real. And when it comes to STEM, it’s a lot more prevalent than you may have originally thought. With such “summer learning loss,” kids leave school to enjoy their time off, and in doing so, leave their textbooks and learnings far behind. But have you considered that there are some subjects kids don’t even have a chance to let slide or leave behind?

Take the fact that only one in four schools teach computer programming. Many courses like computer science and other STEM disciplines aren’t even being taught in some schools.

You might think, what’s the big deal? There are many other things not taught in school. True, but do those “other things” form the skills required of 2.4 million jobs that will go unfilled in 2018, as is the case with STEM? Additionally, do those “other things” form the skills needed to attain jobs that pay over double the average median hourly wage, as STEM jobs do?   

Thus, STEM summer programs keep brains stimulated while kids are out of school, but they also introduce brand new—yet wildly important—skills for kids to build. 

Here are more specifics on how STEM camps and programs are successful in filling summer learning gaps.

STEM camps offer learning experiences disguised as fun. As parents, we’ve snuck veggies into our kids’ pizza, or perhaps thrown a few peas into the mac and cheese. It’s no different with summer STEM learning. In fact, the equation is simple: Take something kids already enjoy and “sneak” in the foreign, yet fruitful, aspects for an all-around enjoyable and “nutritious” experience. 

Summer STEM camps have various elements of the things kids already enjoy: computers, video games, mobile apps and social media. But, they also “sneak” in the more educational aspects, allowing campers to create with technology rather than just consume it.  

STEM camps provide the chance for kids to discover a new passion. Like the aforementioned pizza, all it takes is a taste of STEM and a student could be hooked, craving more as they develop a new passion. 

Yes, it could be that easy. 

Kids begin to engage with and learn about the technology they use on a daily basis, and before you know it, they’re taking the first step toward building the next great app or big video game title. Again, all it takes is the introduction; the chance for kids to have a new experience. 

STEM camps offer the right kind of screen time. Minecraft, Roblox, Fortnite. These are all games kids and teens play for hours, and for good reason—they’re great games! But in addition to playing, students can use their summer experiences to discover Java, which powers Minecraft, or learn how to actually program and publish games to the Roblox platform. 

It’s not that screen time is bad, but rather that the right kind of screen time should be mixed in more often.

In the end, the concept of summers draining brains is only a “thing” if we let it be. There are plenty of educational summer experiences that put a hard stop on any learning loss—and others that also put students ahead; giving them opportunities they might never have with everyday schooling alone.

iD Tech is the #1 tech camp on the planet, with 150+ locations nationwide including Northwestern, Loyola University, Lake Forest College, and more. Kids and teens learn to code, design video games, produce videos, mod Minecraft, create with Roblox, engineer robots, print 3D characters, work with AI and more.

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Posted on March 20, 2018 at 8:38 AM