If you’re new to the latest buzzword in education lingo, “STEAM” stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math. It’s the movement that is pushing these core subjects in schools. What gets interesting about STEAM is that it combines the ideas of traditional liberal arts thinking and approaches to tech subjects.
Now that summer vacation is quickly approaching, parents across the U.S. are madly figuring out how to fill kids time in creative, fun and educational ways. They’re turning to camps offered by local, regional and national organizations. Some of these camp providers work directly in the school systems and some are completely separate. Tech camps are proving to be some of the most popular again this summer.
In Boulder Colorado for example, one of the tech hubs in the U.S, camps open for registration and in a matter of hours they’re filled, explains Heather Middleton. “I’ve missed getting my kids into coding camps for two summers straight! As a busy mom, it’s like you have to be so in the loop to know which camp you want your kids in, and be ready at the moment enrollment opens.”
And it stands to reason, Play Well Org more than doubles it's teaching staff in the summer. They're in over 27 states and use LEGO® as the cornerstone to their camps. They are swamped with parents aching to get their kids into their summer classes.
Part of the drive toward Ed Tech camps comes from a push toward skills based thinking and learning. In the past, schools were on the mission of “tools based” education. While that can be very helpful to know how to use a tool like Excel for example, without the critical thinking skills underpinning the students, understanding a tool only takes a student so far. Students need to practice things like collaboration and cooperation while they’re learning tech.
Educators are now turning to new skills based platforms that teach blend creativity and critical thinking with technology. They want ways to teach multiple tools and skill sets at the same time. With this appetite, they need ways to offer enough complexity to students in a single group with different paces of learning engaged and interested.
One of the hottest new platforms to watch for in these camps is Flybrix. It’s an amazingly simple concept, its a kit where people can build their own flying Lego drones. For the younger students the build, test, fly experience is a compelling and entertaining. Dig a little deeper and there is a software app component that is designed to integrate block based visual coding using this platform that will eventually support Scratch coding. For advanced students, the kit offers the ability to dive into the physics, electronics and mechanical aspects of what drones can do with the open source flight control software, where all the sensors and data from the circuit board can be monitored and adjusted. It's a fun, irreverent platform for learning.
To find tech camps in your area, Play Well Org, MakerSpaces.com, Maker Camp (affiliated with Make Magazine), and ID Tech are good places to start. They offer a wide range of classes that are taught in a variety of ways for students of all ages. Some of these organizations even offer online classes in addition to in-person sessions. They’re amazingly helpful organizations that are dedicated to blurring the lines between education and fun!