STEM Camp’s primary mission
Launched in 2013, STEM Camp started with just 80 campers. Today, over 12,000 children aged 5-13 participate in their summer camp programming, at over 40 locations all across Ontario.
In addition to providing a fun summer experience, STEM Camp’s mission is to inspire kids to pursue future studies and careers in STEM-related fields. This mission is in direct response to the current and growing labour gap in STEM fields here in Canada, one that’s vital to fill.
“Studies tell us that if kids are exposed to and excited about STEM at an early age, they’ll be more likely to later choose STEM professions,” says Kevin Cougler, Founder of STEM Camp. “We want them to enjoy it—to see how much fun STEM is. Through exciting that passion, we open them to the possibility of a future in STEM fields.”
STEM Camp also highly values the role of women in STEM, who have historically been and continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields. “We do various things to encourage girls to come to our camp,” says Cougler. “While we know we can’t correct the gender imbalance in STEM fields all by ourselves, we want to play our part.”
The primary virtues of STEM Camp
But how does STEM Camp prepare kids for the future? And how does it foster a passion for STEM in its campers?
For starters, STEM Camp creates an environment that shows kids that STEM is fun. They don’t direct children in a traditional way, but allow them to use their own sense of curiosity to discover interesting and exciting things for themselves. “Whereas often in the school system, they learn by step-by-step instruction, we have a lot of trial and error,” says Cougler. “Kids are encouraged to experiment, make messes, and make mistakes.”
If the goal is to, say, build a solar-powered car, counsellors don’t show or tell kids how to do it. Rather, campers are asked about what parts are involved, how they might go about building it, what they think might happen if they put it together in a certain way, etc. The counselors encourage them to try to do it their own way. “It’s just amazing to see what they come up with—campers solve problems in ways we never would have imagined or predicted, and it’s just incredible to see” says Cougler. “The result is that they’re just so proud of themselves with what they were able to create. That’s among the things we’re most proud of—creating a space where campers are amazed at what they’re able to achieve! And in the process, those lessons stay with them for life.”
This experiential approach to learning, called inquiry-based learning, has a strong track record and tends to be a big hit with kids and teens. Instead of learning by sitting back, listening, and taking notes, kids are active participants in their learning. They learn by doing, by choosing their own path to achieve a particular goal. And they’re having so much fun, they don’t even realize they’re learning.
Beyond using this unique approach, the activities themselves at STEM Camp are also very exciting for campers. A major part of that is robotics and coding. “We have brand new Chromebooks for all our locations,” says Cougler. “We also use micro:bits (robots that you code to perform different actions), and we use Minecraft quite a bit in all our camp weeks.”
The programming isn’t just in front of a screen: hands-on activities are also front and center. “We have experiments to make things explode, we get messy and gooey, and as just one specific example, we’re building a fart gun from the Minions movies in our Minions-themed weeks. We expect that activity to be a hit!”
Passion, according to Cougler, is driven in large part by strong and engaging leaders, mentors, and role models. “I still remember the counsellors I had,” says Cougler, who makes sure STEM Camp hires with this in mind. “We spend so much time ensuring our counsellors are amazing—that they give all the campers a warm and welcoming experience, and really create an environment where kids feel free to be creative and learn, while just having a great time.”
In all, STEM Camp is a great way to prepare your child for a potential future career in the flourishing field of STEM. And, as for this summer, your kids will remember the good times and awesome memories they made!
To learn more about STEM Camp or to register for summer camp, visit: https://stemcamp.ca/.