Camp season is here! Those who have already registered may be filled with anticipation (and perhaps a few butterflies) as the first day draws closer. What is camp like? Will my son/daughter make friends? Will they learn something useful? All normal questions (These questions are a little different). You’re not alone!
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 17 summers (this is our 18th), multiplied by camp locations held nationwide (130+ 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.
We’ve become experts on how students can make the very most of their time at iD Tech.
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.
Talk to Campmates
Your student could be the next Steve Jobs. Or the next Sheryl Sandberg. 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. It might be the only time their paths cross, or they might end up at the same college someday.
Interact with 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, but they were truly wonderful people.
Given that iD Tech is more of an academic summer camp, our staffers know a lot about modding, programming, game design, and much, much more. Not to mention that many instructors 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.
Encourage your child to talk their ears off! They shouldn’t feel shy about it whatsoever. Instructors are expecting it, and there’s a good chance that what they have to say will be valuable.
Combining the two points above, it’s valuable for students to ask questions of their campmates and instructors, and of themselves.
Students aren’t expected to be modding experts or robotics whiz kids. Some are complete beginners while others are more advanced—that’s why we offer courses for a range of 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 accomplished certain aspects of their projects, or request feedback on their own ideas. Lastly, they might take a moment to self-reflect on what they’re trying to accomplish and how they’ll achieve their goals.
iD Tech curriculum is flexible. Students can choose to focus on specific concepts that interest them, and they’ll learn at their own pace. Even if they haven’t had any experience in their particular course, they can still plan. They might have never created a mod with Minecraft, but I’m sure they’ve played Minecraft, and probably played other people’s mods. That said, what would they want to create if they had the opportunity? Now is their chance!
On the other hand, if they do have experience, and maybe 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 game. A new level design, perhaps? Or a new object? They’ll certainly get more out of camp if they have a plan.
While planning is great for some people, going into camp with an open mind that’s clear of expectations is better for others. Sometimes, students just don’t know enough to plan whatsoever, and absolutely need the experience first in order to brainstorm what it is they want to accomplish. That’s perfectly okay. Once students start learning all the different things that can be created with a 3D printer, or know more about the ins and outs of different programming languages, they can start to apply that knowledge to future projects.
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.
Embrace the Outdoors
Tech camp is full of computers, top-notch software, fun video games, and other appealing indoor activities. But most programs are held on college and university campuses, and it’s not every day you get to explore the grounds of Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and other prestigious institutions. When students have the opportunity to tour campus, or even as they’re walking to and from lunch, have 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. It may even spark some creativity for when it is time to head back inside.
Have an Exit Strategy
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, or by recording a few cool ideas they might have for their school robotics club.
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.
Share the 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 them to talk to a sibling or friend about how camp is going and what they’re learning. Telling others about what they’re learning increases the likelihood that their new skills will stick.
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 a number of different options for students to continue learning. Free, downloadable eBooks are a great resource. Tech Rocket, our online learning destination, is another. Additional learning opportunities are also prevalent at local libraries, museums, and other maker spaces.
We have no problem admitting that we aren’t perfect. We sure try, though! Part of the process is answering questions and solving problems. We expect to hear from you and 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! If you have any additional tips or tricks that have worked well for you and your camper, please share them in the comments.