Every year we hear about the “summer brain drain,” where students experience a loss of learning because they’re out of school for an extended period of time. Now, on top of this, students are also battling the “pandemic brain drain.”
If you’re looking for a way to combat brain drain in your child and inspire a love of learning this summer, tap right into Museum of Science and Industry’s STEM camp offerings where students have exclusive access to both the museum’s unique exhibits and highly-esteemed faculty.
Why a STEM camp?
In addition to giving students entering sixth through ninth grades in the fall the opportunity to interactively experience the fascinating world of science, technology, engineering and medicine, MSI’s summer STEM camp offerings teach valuable life skills, as well.
“STEM, in general, creates opportunities to critically think and problem solve, and, especially in a world of misinformation, we want to ensure our kids have a scientific mind and can both think and act upon what’s happening in front of them,” explains Jaclyn Carmichael, Museum of Science and Industry’s Director of Youth Programs and Pathways.
Patrick McCarthy, MSI’s Senior Coordinator of the Wanger Family Fab Lab, says campers — called scientists, designers and engineers by camp faculty — actually learn to exult in the concept of failure. “I will ask a student how many times they had to redo something, and they’re actually excited to tell me that they failed six times or worked through 27 iterations of a certain project,” he explains.
The reason for this, he says, is that the museum’s staff and faculty have created the camp environment to be a safe place to speak up, ask questions and, yes, sometimes fail. In fact, the adults work through their problems and fail in their projects right alongside them. This “protected struggling,” as McCarthy describes it, builds confidence and ultimately inspires students to advocate for themselves.
He added that a big misconception that parents have is that MSI’s STEM camps are only geared toward children and teens who seem interested in STEM-related concepts or fields.
“In a previous camp, I had an athlete who designed and created a basketball shooter, and when the ball would go into the net, his invention would high-five him. I have had artists come in, and they spend their time at camp making others gifts,” McCarthy says. “Students work on what drives them, what they’re passionate about and what they’re interested in. They take agency in their own education and truly have an incredible amount of fun doing it.”
Banish brain drain at your MSI STEM camp
The Museum of Science and Industry is offering two types of week-long camps this summer: Summer Explorers Camp and Fab Lab Summer Camp. Known for providing students with the chance to explore the museum (both in and out), the Summer Explorers Camp is all about engaging campers in diverse interdisciplinary activities that, according to MSI’s website, “bridge the connections between science, art and engineering” while simultaneously giving campers the chance to “participate in some creative science and engineering challenges.”
On the other hand, the Fab Lab Summer Camp — dubbed “the maker camp” — is held in a variety of design studios equipped with state-of-the-art digital fabrication equipment throughout the museum. According to fabfoundation.org, a fab lab (or digital fabrication laboratory) is a place to play, create, learn, mentor and invent, and during the week-long camp, students do just that. Through project-based learning, the Fab Lab Summer Camp can foster a child’s imagination, allowing them to “look at themselves, each other and their world in new ways.”
But how can parents choose the right camp for their kid?
“When it comes to selecting a camp, I ask parents the simple question of ‘Would your child like to be exposed to using the museum as a learning space?’ and if they say yes, the Summer Explorers Camp would be for them,” explains Carmichael. “Or, if they think their child would much rather spend their time making and breaking things, I’d advise them to try out the Fab Lab Summer Camp.”
For the second year in a row, the Fab Lab Summer Camp will be holding two Girls Club camper weeks, and for the first time, the Summer Explorers Summer Camp will also be holding two Girls Club weeks of their own. These camp weeks are only open to female-identifying and non-binary youth who are not only interested in collaborating in a different environment but also have the desire to participate in conversations with female and non-binary leaders at MSI.
“The Girls Club weeks were created to provide an even safer space where girls and non-binary youth can feel comfortable being vulnerable and take risks since there’s an innate understanding between them,” Carmichael explains.
MSI’s week-long summer STEM camps for middle schoolers run Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with an hour-long after-camp option) throughout the months of July and August. Lunch, snacks and water are provided, and MSI can accommodate any specific dietary, as well as medical needs. In need of financial assistance? Scholarships for camp fees are also available.
For specific camp dates and to reserve a spot for your child, visit www.msichicago.org/camps.