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Advancing academics. Honing learning skills. Expanding boundaries. Last in a three-part series

Just because school’s out for the summer doesn’t mean your child’s learning has to stop. Before the next school year begins, use this time to help your student catch up, leap ahead, and explore academics. The choices are broader than ever. Campers can brush up on history, science, and language arts or experiment with oceanography, discover robotics, or test-drive a potential career. 

Most children experience some degree of learning loss in the summer months, according to the National Summer Learning Association. “Research shows experiential education programs like summer camp have a positive effect on children and also help to stem learning loss,” said Michele Branconier, executive director of the American Camp Association’s (ACA) Southern California/Hawaii region. 

“Choose a topic your child is interested in,” says Charina Layman, public programs coordinator for Birch Aquarium at Scripps in LaJolla. “Even if they know a lot about the subject matter, there is always more to learn. Any camp they attend will offer opportunities to build independence, develop important decision-making skills, and, most importantly, strengthen their confidence.”

“Your child is participating in a learning community,” says Branconier. “It’s important for parents to talk with the camp director to learn more about the camp’s philosophy and ensure it is in alignment with their own family’s beliefs and values.”

Beyond Academia

Education-related camps are nothing like summer school and provide a unique way of learning.  At the Kern County Museum’s summer camps, the children use different experiments and fun activities to learn science-related skills.  “The children are in school all year long.  Our camps give them a fun, relaxed learning environment where they can interact with their teachers and peers,” says Cami Cortez, Education Assistant for the Kern County Museum.  “We have a lot of fun with the children and help them learn in an interactive way.”

Sparking Passion

Science camps can help students find a new passion.  This summer, members of the Stockdale Boys & Girls Club will get to learn about the field of robotics thanks to a grant from Chevron.  The Robo Tech program will be an easy and fun way for Club members to explore science, technology, engineering, and math.  Working in groups, members will use Lego Mindstorms® - a self-contained kit to build and program a robot that interacts with its environment in numerous ways. 

“The kids have no idea they’re learning the simple principles of mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering. They’re having fun while playing with robots and learning at the same time,” says Adam Alvidrez, Public Affairs Representative for Chevron.  “The ‘brains’ in the robots are called programmable logic controllers or PLCs. That’s the same type of mechanism used to power pumping units in oil fields, spin turbines under water for hydroelectricity, and operate roller coasters and carnival rides that kids love.”

Camp Invention is another way students can learn 21st century life skills imperative to success in a competitive global workforce using the aspects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  This unique camp rotates children through four modules each day that encourages working in diverse teams and engaging in investigations, experiments, and engineering challenges in fun, hands-on activities.  One module might have the students become astronauts who have crash-landed on an alien planet where they have to build shelter and spacesuits.  Another activity will have them clean up a simulated landfill that is leaking toxic chemicals into the community’s groundwater.

This year, Camp Invention will be held at Endeavour Elementary School, 9300 Meacham Road, from June 18 through June 22, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and costs $250.00 per child with multiple child discounts.  For more information and to register, visit www.campinvention.org.

Finding Friends

Summer camp is a safe environment offering unique experiences to meet and make new friends. According to ACA research, 96 percent of campers made new friends and 93 percent met people that were different from themselves. The camp experience helps develop authentic friendships and a sense of community, while making children more aware of the world around them.

“One amazing thing about our day camps is that we have people from all over the world,” says Cortez.  “This lets children see other cultures first-hand and become familiar with them.  This past summer, we had children from Korea, Japan, Switzerland, and India.”  

A World of Discovery

Attending science camps can give real-life experiences for children who want to become doctors, scientists, geologists, or engineers.  At the Kern County Museum, they offer GAP:  Geology, Archaeology, & Paleontology and Survivor Science for older participants, ages 11-13.  For students interested in the medical field, they have camps featuring forensics and chemistry.  “We focus on the scientific method and teach the students the proper way of doing experiments,” says Cortez.  “Each week has a different theme for each age group.  For ‘Geology Rocks,’ we study the formation of rocks and even take the children over to our Black Gold Oil Exhibition where they can get a hands-on experience with plate tectonics, satellite mapping, and fossils.  For ‘Chemistry is Cool,’ we are doing egg bottle and static electricity experiments and learning how to charge a light bulb.”

At Birch Aquarium at Scripps’ ocean science camp, students might take part in a gooey dissection of a squid or have the chance to learn how to surf and snorkel. “Campers often leave with a greater sense of connectedness not only to nature but also to the people around them. Many children have never swum in the ocean, despite living in coastal San Diego.  It’s a life-changing experience to swim face-to-face with a fish,” said Layman. “Campers have a limitless excitement for touching animals. Whether it’s a shark, sea star, or sea anemone, having that one-on-one contact with an animal never gets old.”

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