Summer Camps Mix Trad with Tech

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While summer camps may conjure up images of hiking, swimming, archery, crafts and singing around the campfire while slurping up s’mores, many area camps are blending in technology-related programs that tie in with young people’s increasingly electronic-device-driven worlds.

While Park School Summer Camps have been offering science-focused programs for more than 30 years, including biology-related classes that took advantage of Park’s 100-acre campus, this summer Park is offering a mix of the old and the new, according to Shrijana Puri, the camps’ director, and Will Weiskopf, assistant director.

Camp offerings include beginner and advanced NXT robotics programs, creative zine writing, a theater intensive and nature and yoga, as well as a new thread of gaming-focused programs that includes camps for “Minecraft,” “Game Theory,” “Magic: The Gathering” and “Dota 2.”

“Game-related programs represent a new opportunity for education, reaching a child through their interests,” Weiskopf said. “Well-planned game programs incorporate aspects of design, art, critical analysis, storytelling, coding and integration of simple elements into complex systems. Through these creative and exciting programs, children will learn self-regulation, pride and achievement and develop friendships.”

A wide array of enrichment is important because it encourages each individual child to explore interests within a nurturing environment that keep his or her mind active and engaged, stimulating growth in social-emotional intelligence, according to Puri and Weiskopf. And while campers in Park’s summer programs engage in traditional activities, such as painting, singing, playing, exploring nature and challenging themselves on Park’s 8-acre “confidence course,” they also participate in cultural learning, robotics and intellectual puzzles.

And while you might think the tech-related programs would be attended mostly by boys, last year, Park’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) summer programs had a 70-30 ratio of girls to boys.

Puri and Weiskopf said making friends, being active, engaging with good teachers and facing intellectual challenges all help support a child’s social and emotional development, better preparing them for the academic year ahead.

“Camp offers children an opportunity to explore new activities and ideas and to delve more deeply into subjects about which they are already passionate,” Puri said.

At Maryland Institute College of Art, technology has a decidedly artistic bent. Summer programs for children, young teens and pre-college students are a mix of traditional media and tech-related media, meeting a growing demand for more high-tech art programs.

“The interest in design- thinking practices as well as technology in the arts is growing, especially among young people who have interests in STEAM-related disciplines,” said Kate Porter, MICA’s director of youth programs, office of Open Studies. “Our goal is to offer courses that interest all young artists and designers.”

MICA’S Young People’s Studios program serves youth in grades K-12 through its Summer Art Camp, where students can choose from a variety of individual courses that fit their interests. Summer programs are offered at MICA’s Mount Royal campus and at the Ward Center for the Arts at the St. Paul’s School for Girls.

[pullquote]“The interest in design-thinking practices as well as technology in the arts is growing, especially among young people who have interests in STEAM-related disciplines.” — Kate Porter, MICA’s director of youth programs, office of Open Studies[/pullquote]

In addition to its traditional summer-camp type programs, MICA offers a Pre-College Art and Design Residency program for rising juniors and seniors. Students live on campus during the summer, take classes with MICA faculty, visit working artists, earn college credit and build an application portfolio. Two-week, three-week and five-week residencies are offered.

Tech-related classes in the Pre-College Art and Design Residency program include game design, animation, video production, virtual reality and digital photography.

Technology- and science- related offerings for younger children include “Mad Scientist Art,” “STEAM Focused Artmaking” and “Artology: Where Art and Science Meet.”

Beyond Park School and MICA, other camps focusing on science and technology programs include Camp Watonka in Hawley, Pa., the iD Game Design & Development Academy for Teens with locations at Johns Hopkins University at Rockville, Towson University and the University of Maryland, College Park; Play by Play Sports Broadcasting Camp at Notre Dame of Maryland University; and Tech R3volution at Towson University. The Union for Reform Judaism holds the 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy just outside of Boston on the campus of The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Mass.

Along with the traditional outdoor nature and adventure camp experience, many camps also mix in science and technology programs. For instance, Maryland’s Camp Airy for boys in Thurmont, Md., offers model rocketry, video production and digital photography and Camp Louise in Cascade for girls offers photography and video production. J Camps at the JCC offers the STEM Plus program that includes “LEGO Robotics Camp with Club SciKidz,” “XTreme Science with The Science Guys of Baltimore” and “Young Innovators.”

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