Camp season is here! Those of you who have already registered may be filled with anticipation (and perhaps a few butterflies) as your first day draws closer.
What is camp like? Will my son/daughter make friends? Will they learn something useful? All normal questions (and here are 100+ more in case you're still weighing your options).
To help put you and your student at ease, remember: we’ve been hosting camps since 1999, and we’re continually evolving to ensure the best summer experiences imaginable for families across the nation.
When you look back to 20 summers (this is our 21st), multiplied by camp locations held nationwide (150+ locations this year alone), multiplied again by the large number of different program sessions held at each specific site, that’s a whole lot of experience. With it, we’ve become experts and have accumulated a good share of tips on how students can make the very most of their time at camp.
So, take the following as guidance; some advice on how to amplify a session’s worth of camp and transform it into something life-changing for your child.
These points revolve around camp at iD Tech, specifically, but they can be applied to any summer program your student might attend.
Summer Camp Tips
1. Talk and interact with campmates
Your student could be the next Bill Gates. Or the next Susan Wojcicki. And you never know who some of their campmates will become!
Point being, camp is a great place to make friends. And, if your son or daughter has ambitions of building the next great app or the best-selling video game of ALL TIME, it never hurts to get to know a few people along the way. Those people will be sitting at the computers next to your child at camp, or hanging out on the same field during break time. Encourage your student to find them and to talk to them. Doing so might pay off in a day, a week, or even years down the road.
2. Get to know instructors
When I went to traditional summer camp as a kid, I had one leader who was a guitarist and another who was an artist. Getting to know them didn’t pay many long-term dividends for me personally, though they were truly great people.
But when you have a camp that is focused in a particular area, like STEM (what does STEM stand for anyway) - and one that is more academic in nature - you know you're going to have instructors who know their stuff, and more importantly, who are there at camp to help your child build a specific skill.
Our staffers know a ton about coding, game development, robotics, design, and much, much more. Not to mention that many of them are either graduate or undergraduate students in related STEM fields, and/or students/alumni from the very universities at which camp is held. Others are working professionals with careers or internships in relevant fields.
So, encourage your child to talk their instructors’ ears off! Students shouldn’t feel shy about doing so, and there’s a very good chance the responses will be valuable.
3. Ask questions
Combining the two points above, it’s important for students to ask questions of their campmates and instructors—but also of themselves.
Students aren’t expected to be modding experts or robotics whiz kids when they arrive at camp. Some are complete beginners while others are more advanced—that’s why we offer tech courses for all skill levels.
So please, encourage your child to ask questions while at camp—not only about their particular course, but also about instructors’ professional experiences, internships, etc. Have them ask campmates how they went about accomplishing certain aspects of their projects, or request feedback on their own ideas. Lastly, suggest they take a moment to self-reflect on what they’re trying to accomplish and how they’ll achieve their goals.
4. Plan ahead
iD Tech curriculum is flexible. Students can choose to focus on specific concepts that interest them, and they’ll be given the freedom to learn at their own pace.
But while a lot can be discovered at camp in real time, planning ahead might allow for a deeper dive. Even if students haven’t had any experience in their particular course area, they can still think about what they might want to accomplish beforehand.
For example, they might have never created mods with Minecraft, but I’m sure they’ve played Minecraft, and probably played other people’s mods, too. So, with that knowledge, what would they want to create if they had the opportunity? Now is that special chance!
On the other hand, if campers do have some experience, and perhaps already have a game they’re working on, it’s useful to brainstorm how they can use their time at camp to learn something that will benefit their creation. A new level design, perhaps? Or a new object to model? They’ll certainly get more out of camp if they have an idea of their end-of-session goals.
Prefer to have your student arrive at camp with an open canvas? That’s totally fine too! Once students start learning all the different ways 3D printing can change the world, or start getting familiar with the ins and outs of different coding languages, they can begin to apply that knowledge to future projects.
5. Participate when the opportunity presents itself
There will undoubtedly be certain aspects of camp that students enjoy more than others. That’s a given. So, I’m not saying they have to absolutely love everything going on, but at least encourage them to try.
For instance, “Ice Breakers” are not my thing at all, and I don’t look forward to them in any setting. But that doesn’t stop me from participating, because at the end of the day, they really do help when it comes to getting to know others.
So, the one thing I will say is that everything that goes on at camp is done for the betterment of the camper. Every activity has a desired, positive outcome.
6. Embrace the outdoors
Tech camp is full of computers, top-notch software, fun video games, and other appealing indoor activities. But let’s not forget, most programs are held on college and university campuses! It’s not every day your child has the chance to explore the grounds of Stanford in the Silicon Valley, NYU, and other prestigious institutions.
When students have the opportunity to tour campus, or even as they’re walking to and from lunch, encourage them take in their surroundings. Likewise, participating in the organized outdoor activities can help break up the day and assist in clearing a cluttered mind. Doing so may even spark some creativity for when it is time to head back inside.
7. Leave with a plan
As hard as it is to say goodbye to new friends and instructors, all camps must eventually come to an end! Depending on your student’s goals going into camp, have them plan ahead for how they might be able to put those skills to good use once they’re back home, at school, etc.
This includes figuring out how they’ll continue to enhance their skills, perhaps by acquiring the same software used at camp for use at home, opting for private online lessons with iD Tech instructors, or by recording a few cool ideas they might have for their school robotics club. It could also be as simple as incorporating new and different activities, like introducing any of the many blogs for kids around different topics.
The last thing you want to happen is for your son or daughter to have a great, inspiring week of camp, then get home and then think, “Now what?”
Again, if they need help calculating how the things they’re learning at camp apply to life in the real world, have them talk to their instructors.
8. Share the camp experience
Trying to get your student to open up and talk about their day is sometimes easier said than done (especially with teens). So if your attempts to glean all the juicy camp details aren’t panning out, encourage kids to talk to a sibling or friend about how camp is going and what they’re learning. Telling others about their experiences increases the likelihood that their new skills will stick.
9. Stay sharp after summer ends
Camp can either be a jumping off point, or a means to further already-existing skills. Either way, it’s important to realize that the experience doesn’t end with the close of camp. iD Tech provides different options for students to continue learning, like the online learning sessions mentioned above. Additional opportunities are also prevalent at local libraries, museums, and other maker spaces.
10. Provide feedback and suggestions
We have no problem admitting that we aren’t perfect. We sure try to be, though! Part of the process is answering questions and solving problems, so we really, truly value your feedback. Plus, the earlier in the camp session we know that perhaps a course isn’t what was expected, or that a student is having an issue with a peer, the sooner we can find a solution. So feedback during the week is definitely encouraged.
After-camp feedback is crucial as well. While it won’t necessarily make your recently completed camp experience better, the more we know, the more we can make camp even better next summer. You’ll be asked to complete an evaluation at camp, so please do use that time to pass along any praise, concern, or suggestions.
With all of that said, best of luck at camp (and beyond)!
If you have any additional tips or tricks that have worked well for you and your camper, please share!