School is out, which means plenty of free time for kids. One way to get them away from the TV is a summer science camp, where they can have fun and maybe spark an interest in engineering.
Children in this country have been shipped off to sleep-away camps since the late 19th century
. Summer camp has changed a lot since then, and even more so over the past couple decades. In the past, kids were typically limited to either a summer camp in the wilderness or a summer camp on a sports field. Now they have a wide range of summer camps from which to choose, from space camp and robotics camp to geology camp and CSI camp.
OK, you may be thinking, "Am I lining up my son or daughter to receive daily power wedgies from their peers if they ever found out they went to a science camp?"
Based on the promising (see: fun and educational) attributes of the following summer science camps in this very brief roundup, we'd like to think that the answer is a definitive "no."
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Perhaps not as academic as other science camps, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) Science Camps offer a combination of science, adventure and treasured summer-camp traditions. For the last 50 years, thousands of kids (ages 7-18) have spent their summers learning about science and exploring nature and rafting a river in central Oregon. Instructors are science educators with college degrees and experience in the natural sciences, field-study techniques and outdoor skills.
OMSI is accredited through the American Camp Association and boasts one of the most affordable comprehensive science camp experiences on the West Coast.
"We believe that every child is a scientist and that we can make children even better scientists," Club Scientific's Web site proclaims. With multiple locations scattered throughout Georgia, Club Scientific offers summer day camps for three different age groups: 4-5, 6-8 and 9-13.
Camp themes include "Little Engineer," "Young Scientist" and "Robot Inventor."
Club Scientific's mission is not only to get camp-goers excited about science but also to develop the scientific literacy essential for life as effective, productive citizens.
Science Camp Watonka
Every summer season in Hawley, PA, Science Camp Watonka welcomes 130 boys and 60 staff to its science-oriented program, where campers gain hands-on experience in a wide range of sciences including astronomy, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, computers, earth science, electronics, amateur radio, robotics and photography in a fun and interactive way.
"Well-equipped laboratories, well-qualified staff and small groups combine to provide an exciting and educational program," according to the Camp's Web site.
ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp
With so much of the U.S. population currently pinching pennies to pay for rising gas costs, the irony of a free science summer camp by way of ExxonMobil is a tad ironic, to say the least.
Nonetheless, the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp (BHSSC), located in Houston, TX, is indeed a free academic program of The Harris Foundation, which takes an active role in shaping education in students entering grade 6, 7 or 8 in the fall of 2008. The camp's Web site says, "Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are critical to society's infrastructure for the 21st century and preserving that future requires an investment... ."
While parents may know what's best for their kids, they should talk to their child about his interests before signing him up to a particular camp. Although camp is about having fun, it's not a bad idea to pick a camp that can teach your child new skills or improve upon any that he may already have.
If you think engineering or any of the sciences could be in your youngster's future, a comprehensive Web site called TryEngineering.org
seems to be a great place to start as it contains a notable list of engineering camps for nearly every state across the U.S.