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The Benefits of STEM-based Summer Programs

By: Jenny Whichard, Director of SummerEdge
Children with a drone Children with a drone

STEM–a methodology that integrates science, technology, engineering, and math into each lesson; encourages teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity. It allows students to make connections between different subject areas. Summer is an excellent time for students to explore STEM.

Here’s why:

Relaxed and Fun Learning Environment

Time and again, our educators report that one of the most advantageous aspects of summer learning is that students are naturally more relaxed. And when students are relaxed, they are more available for learning. They feel safer and are more willing to take chances than they might otherwise. Mistakes transform from moments of doubt to opportunities for learning. The anxiety of a full class schedule, homework, and grades is mitigated in the summer. In this way, students are free to enjoy the experience of learning rather than worrying about their GPA. Ensuring campers are having fun while learning is the winning component for any academic summer program. For example, STEM campers at SummerEdge form teams and design their own boats and test out at a nearby pool.

Exposure to New Technology

Don’t be fooled, even with its implicit emphasis on tech, STEM does not have to mean hours of screen time. Students use a diverse array of technologies to implement their experiments extending far beyond passive observation.

So while it may appear that students are simply using iPads to play with robots, it is actually so much more than that. They are learning coding fundamentals with programs like Scratch while having fun. When teaching their robot to move through obstacles, students are utilizing critical thinking, sequencing, and visualizing. And let’s not forget the math involved in translating the distance, speed, and number of seconds they want their robot to move. When learning feels more like gaming, it’s a lot more fun!

AR/VR, Tynker, Gimkit, Merge Cube, Edpuzzle–the list goes on and on. The inventory of acronyms, trendy names, and terms for computer programs can be dizzying, but don’t worry. At SummerEdge STEM Camp we harness the constantly evolving landscape of burgeoning technology. Our teachers utilize various platforms and the latest software to deliver their lessons, exposing campers to current and developing forms of applied science. This is predominantly done through programs using current devices that are still within the reach of the average at-home or on-campus user.

Building Confidence and Safe Risk Taking

Our educators report that children who participate in STEM display a marked increase in their self-confidence. When campers experience success with STEM experiments, they feel encouraged to attempt more of them. Their fear of failure diminishes and the fun of trying something new takes over. That sense of accomplishment is empowering for children and can inspire them to take that curiosity and sense of adventure beyond the walls of the classroom. According to one of our teachers, the most successful projects in STEM are the ones that provide the “aha” or “wow!” moments.

No mistake is laughable if you tried your best. No idea about an experiment is outlandish. Every question matters. Experimentation, trying things to see if they’ll work, and failing are all acceptable and even encouraged. Because we learn from our mistakes. We grow our self confidence when the chances we take lead to the excitement of discovery. Through STEM, we hope that every child can realize that science doesn’t have to be scary; technology can be accessible; math can be inspiring; and engineering exhilarating. STEM welcomes all children to try without trepidation while finding joy in the process.

Personal Growth and Potential Career Paths

STEM is rarely, if ever, a solitary activity. It is about collaboration, teamwork, and problem solving through action. The experience of working as a team is invaluable to children. It teaches them patience, listening skills, and partnership. These critical skills will help them become better students now, and also better colleagues in adulthood. Exposure to STEM programs in childhood produces problem-solving adults.

STEM is an excellent stepping stone for students to find an area of study they are passionate about. STEM summer camps can instill the interest and confidence to pursue a career in STEM fields; jobs which are likely to remain in high demand in the future.

Campers leave with a new perspective on the different areas of STEM. Using their hands to experience rather than memorize or write can be transformative for children, dispelling their preconceived notions that they “don’t like science or math.”