Science and Summer

Discover a different kind of camp experience.

Children enjoy real-life experiences that spark their innate curiosity about science, especially those lessons normally not performed in the classroom. This makes summer a great time for kids to explore the world of nature and science. Luckily, there is an increasing number of camps that get kids excited about STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, as part of their summer-fun lineup. Children who attend science camp partake in numerous hands-on activities. Campers explore a vast sprawl of insects using a magnifying glass, conduct chemical experiments while donning lab coats and safety goggles, and play detective at a crime scene using DNA fingerprinting. Additional perks include constructing a six-legged robot or building a solar oven that cooks yummy s’mores.

Science enrichment camps are a unique and exciting way for kids to realize that math and science can be entertaining. Don’t be surprised by how much kids learn as they connect everyday situations with science. The experience also prepares students for the upcoming school year. An informal science program is one of the most effective ways children learn science and helps them practice critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These newfound abilities add a tremendous sense of accomplishment and confidence in children and enhance both their vocabulary and imagination.

Camps for children ages 4-8 should encourage them to explore and get their hands on a wide range of science activities. Programs for older children should focus on creating deeper connections within the subject. The best camps have a new theme each week that blends science and physical activities. For example, a camp focusing on amusement park physics should have children exploring centripetal force and kinetic and potential energy and end the week with kids riding real amusement park rides. Find a science camp that holds some of its classes outdoors, too, so kids can explore and study ecosystems.

When choosing a camp, it’s best to research topics. Figure out what your child’s science interest or preference is and determine the level of academics he or she wants. If your child loves to tinker with toys, take the passion to the next level by considering a camp that offers robotics. Many science camps teach robotics and the science of batteries, bulbs and buzzers with electronics kits. If he is interested in marine biology, architecture, aerospace or paleontology, choose a specialized camp that lets him try out a specific career.

An ideal science camp experience should be able to transform a simple day of visiting a museum into a memorable experience. Unlike traditional camps, science programs offer kids of all ages an opportunity to really explore the topic in all its fun and messy glory. Campers are granted a wonderful opportunity to exercise their brains as well as their bodies and develop a lifelong love of science. The goal is to get kids excited so that when they hear the words polymer, carbon dioxide or mitochondria in school, they smile and think: I know what that is from my time at science camp.

Construct a Bubbling Lava Lamp

Materials
•Vegetable oil •16-oz. plastic bottle •Water •Food coloring •Alka-Seltzer tablet

Instructions
Pour oil into the bottle until it is three-quarters full. Pour water to the bottle until almost full. Add 10 drops of food coloring. Divide the Alka-Seltzer tablet into six pieces. Drop one piece of Alka-Seltzer into the oil-water mixture and watch it bubble like a real lava lamp. When the bubbling stops, add another piece of Alka-Seltzer and keep enjoying the show.