Summer Science Camps - Age Inappropriate Science for kids

Question:How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
on 07/05/2016

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Summer time offers children an opportunity to play and participate in learning activities free of deadlines, exams and school routine.  Kids are fascinated by nature, biology, space and just about any field of science.  They love to ask `why`and `how`and `how come`. Their thirst for knowledge can be exhausting as it rarely has a limit.   Children have curiosity that is not tempered by self-imposed age appropriate limitations and are equally eager to learn about worms, DNA, flight, stars, travel to Mars, etc.   They have ambition that is driven by curiosity and knowledge that stimulates ambition to answer questions that are sometimes relentless and complex.   Parents are sometimes challenged to answer their questions let alone give them an opportunity to have hands on experience learning about science, with a scientist (engineer, informatician, etc.) in a lab equipped for university level science, engineering and technology. 

Canadians have invested in developing world-class universities and colleges that are populated with staff and students eager to share their knowledge.   Universities hope to recruit future students and are increasingly opening their labs and facilities to children who visit to learn about what universities could offer their curious and ambitious minds.  During the summer months universities are often closed, or activities in departments scaled back, as students take a break for the summer months.  There is an opportunity to develop a program to fund universities to develop summer camp programs for children who are curious about science, engineering and technology.   Children can be offered age-inappropriate science, or science that is taught to students at university.   Giving universities funding to hire students to develop activities and projects for children that visit the university summer science camp provides meaningful employment, engagement of future students, and full utilization of university facilities for community enrichment.

Elementary schools and High schools look with envy at the well-equipped molecular biology labs, engineering testing facilities, biology labs, computational labs, etc. knowing they have precocious students who long to do more in school, take their science projects to the next step, but can`t as the school doesn`t have funding to provide for these extracurricular activities and excursions.   We are nurturing frustrated aspiring scientists by limiting their access to advanced knowledge and applications of science and technology by restricting their inquiries to school curriculum, a science fair or special project at school.

Children want to know and learn more at younger ages.  They have access to the internet and can be self-taught to a point where they need instruction or hands on experience.  We have a nation of geniuses who lack access to expertise and lab facilities that would help cement their passion for knowledge and quest for discovery.

Parents crave access to additional resources for children with an insatiable desire to learn and know `why`and `how does it work`.  Fear of over scheduling children and not giving them time to play and relax in the summer could be avoided by adding summer activities as part of the summer camp, visits to parks, camping trips, sports activities (at sports facilities at our universities) to compliment the science camp activities in the labs.

Canadian parents want to respond to children`s natural curiosity and passion for knowledge.  We see the strain of the teachers in schools in our communities where budget cuts further hamper their ability to offer children resources they crave.  A summer science camp for children seeking age-inappropriate Science would fill a void in the programs offered by the federal government to encourage bright university students to find employment in the summer months.  A summer science camp based at our universities would give universities an opportunity to open their facilities to the community and give parents and children a first hand look at their facilities and faculty.

Our economy will depend on the current and next generation of children to be fully employed in good jobs. STEM training provides children with skills and aptitude to compete for good jobs and develop capacities to develop our economy as adults.  Children who arrive in Canada and parents who arrive in Canada as adults and children may not have had exposure to university training in Canada. Providing these parents and children with access to university facilities helps prepare and inform them of choices for further education and where they can seek information in their community.

The summer months are an ideal time for a summer science camp.  Parents are often working and need childcare for children that would rather not stay at home during their holidays.   Children enjoy socializing with new friends and in new contexts where they are learning something new or discovering their curiosity for knowledge they didn`t know existed.  This creates a positive experience and memory that is not tied to an exam, a grade, an expectation or evaluation.   Science is simply fun.

 

 

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Reni Barlow by Reni Barlow
07/05/2016

While I wholeheartedly support your proposition, the reality is that most universities and some colleges already offer summer science camp programs for elementary and/or high school students that offer exactly what you describe. Actua probably offers the most comprehensive network of such camps at universities. Click the link, select a province/territory, and you'll see the many options available. In addition to Actua member camps, many university faculties/departments offer their own camp experiences. Many summer STEM camp programs, including Actua and its members, receive federal funding through the NSERC PromoScience program. To view a list of the 2015 grant recipients, visit the PromoScience web site.

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Reni Barlow  Reni Barlow 
...continued For me, the most important element of your idea is that you are clearly passionate about the potential and value of summer science camps, but were unaware that they existed. I have sometimes described the situation as: "We know how to sign our kids up for sports and music. How do we sign them up for science?" In a separate idea on this site (National youth STEM and innovation development system - like hockey) I argue for the development of a coordinated national strategy and system that would enable the parents and students you describe (as well as teachers and others) to access information on all youth STEM programs and activities across the country. I hope this is helpful. Reni

Reni Barlow by Reni Barlow
07/05/2016

...continued. For me, the most important element of your idea is that you are clearly passionate about the potential and value of summer science camps, but were unaware that they existed. I have sometimes described the situation as: "We know how to sign our kids up for sports and music. How do we sign them up for science?" In a separate idea on this site (National youth STEM and innovation development system - like hockey) I argue for the development of a coordinated national strategy and system that would enable the parents and students you describe (as well as teachers and others) to access information on all youth STEM programs and activities across the country. I hope this is helpful. Reni

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