Month: December 2013

Benefits of STEM Related Summer Camp Programs

STEM is a popular buzzword—or, more appropriately, acronym–circulating among educational circles, but it might not be a term one might expect to hear within summer camp circles. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, four subject areas to which educators are increasingly striving to give students additional exposure, and summer camps are hopping on the bandwagon. According to the American Camp Association, STEM related activities have been among the most popular additions to summer camp programs over the past five years and for good reason. Summer camp provides campers with an alternative venue to learn in ways that are fun. Classrooms are replaced with the outdoors or facilities designed exclusively for individual programs and class size is vastly reduced allowing campers to be able to take a more intricate, hands on approach to exploring STEM areas through related camp activities. According to the New York Daily News, the average class size in New York, an area in which summer camp is particularly popular, is 25 students. In some schools, class sizes exceed 30 students. STEM related camp programs such as Nature, Rocketry and Radio, are often capped at fewer  than a dozen campers per activity period.  STEM related programs increasingly prove to be among the most popular with campers. So why are children flocking to educational niche programs? There are likely several reasons.

First, summer camp provides an informal, laid back setting. There is no homework. There is no syllabus. There are no lectures.There are no deadlines. There are no exams. It’s completely a ‘participate to the level of your comfort’ environment. All campers are encouraged to try camp STEM related programs at least once during the summer, but some find a new interest or passion and return several times. The ‘participate as you wish’ approach also allows campers to choose how to focus their interests. Counselors, often college majors or professionals in the area that they lead, are facilitators. They are there to encourage and assist campers in channeling their efforts into particular aspect of a STEM related activity if they so desire.

Second, the whole point of summer camp is for campers to have fun. So it goes without saying that camp activities are designed to emphasize fun, even those related to subject areas in which students are traditionally less than enthusiastic during the school year. In that regard, educational niche programs at sleepaway camp aren’t intended to compete with or replace the learning that takes place during the school year, but to enhance it.

Third, there is a healthy mixture of activity. Unlike a school setting in which students move through subjects throughout the day typically in a lecture setting, at least half of the day at a traditional summer camp is spent outside where campers take part in sports and water activities. Many camps also incorporate a designated time to rest into their programming day in order to give campers and staff the opportunity to recharge. So those program activities that could be perceived as educational are mixed in with healthy doses of physical activity and relaxation.  This allows campers proper time and space to both process the activities in which they take part throughout the day and to approach future activities with a fresh mind.

Although traditional summer camp STEM related programs are not intended to replace those offered in schools, they may ultimately be equally attributable to inspiring future scientists, technologists, engineers, or mathematicians by encouraging campers to explore these subjects in ways and to a level that they might not get to do during the school year. Some campers may carry a new found interest in these subject areas home and take on a new enthusiasm at school, making summer camp STEM related programs an invaluable addition to their program lineup.

Home Away from Home

18439 is the zip code that has become my second home for five summers.  Starting at the age of six, I learned many core virtues at Camp Weequahic in Pennsylvania.  Summer camp has absolutely changed my life.

Living and sleeping in a cabin with different girls and no parents involves plenty of responsibility.  Everyone has to clean their bunk and the bathroom everyday with only a little help from the counselors.  Also, each camper has to create his or her own schedule of fun activities planned.  In addition, I have to be accountable for brushing my teeth and folding my laundry.  Responsibility is important, but cooperation is also a big part of the camp experience.

At sleep away camp, cooperation is used everyday no matter what.  All campers must cooperate completely during their activities by including everyone. By cooperating with my fellow bunk members, we can accomplish chores and activities more quickly than doing it all alone.  In competitions, different teams have to cooperate in order to win.  When the entire camp breaks into different tribes, girls and boys work together creating songs, competing in relays, and answering trivia questions.  At times, I can be a strong leader in my bunk or for my tribe.

Finally, I have gained independence every year I have been at this camp. Living 3,000 miles away from home allows me to take care of myself and be independent.  I am in charge of serving others and myself food.  I try new things like cooking, sewing, tubing, and kickball.  I have created friendships with people from all over the world and have stayed in touch with them.

Arriving at camp is the best experience of the whole year.  I am away from my parents but at least I still have my bother there with me.  I learn many things and make many new friends.  All of this creates a remarkable summer experience!

–Jenna H.

The Weequahic Basketball League

Many camp families ask the question, “Are you a competitive camp?” With over 50 activities from which to choose, we happily respond, ‘If a child wants to compete, they can. If not, it’s not expected of them.” For those who like to compete we have many options both on and off camp. The most lively of these options continued to be the Weequahic Basketball League.

Founded in 2010, the WBL allows campers who love to play and compete the chance to do so often. Divided up among equal teams by age group and skill level, our Ballers get the opportunity to test their teamwork and skill against other teams during a regular activity period. Run by our Athletics Director and Head of Basketball, kids who love the game get enjoy the opportunity for some friendly competition on the courts.

Starting with the NBA style draft during which the coaches pick teams, the WBL begins in style. After a few practices, during which the campers pick their own team names, the games begin. Near the end of the session, the teams participate in the WBL Finals. This single elimination tournament is hotly (and fairly) contested by all teams and culminates in the final game which the entire camp gets to watch.

During the games, campers not playing get to run the scoreboards, practice their on court interviews and play by play announcing, and, for the older kids, get some experience as assistant coaches.

Campers of all skill levels and ages who want to be a part of a basketball team get to be so. And, surrounded by a great staff and supportive friends, they learn and play and enjoy the game!