Blog: Bright Ideas

A BIG idea behind every camper project

Every camper creation is a masterpiece of unseeable skills—brainstorming, collaborating, marvelous mistake making, testing and trying again—until vision becomes reality.

Galileo campers are excited about and proud of the projects they create. And the physical things they make at camp are super cool. But once they get home, their projects may only last a few days or weeks. Even though the projects are tangible, they aren’t the real takeaway. The BIG idea behind these projects—growing an innovator’s mindset, deepening creative confidence and strengthening the ability to turn ideas into reality—is what we’re all about.

Let’s take a closer look at our projects, and how the Galileo Innovation Approach comes to life at camp.

This summer, during the Space Explorers theme, Supernovas (3rd - 5th graders) will design and create their own Alien Friends. They’ll bring home a paper bag with something like this inside:

At first glance, you may notice some of the visible things by looking at this project:

It’s red.

Uses different materials.

It’s hand sewn.

Wearing an apron and holding a frying pan.

These are all true, but this Alien Friend also represents the Galileo Innovation Approach and how campers will grow as innovators through the creation of this project:

Before starting to create their Alien Friend, campers will practice being determined, recognizing that innovation and mastery require effort. For many campers, learning to sew is not easy. Threading the needle, tying a knot and making evenly-spaced stitches takes practice and perseverance. The completed project represents a camper’s determination, growth and a feeling of confidence… “I can sew now!”


Campers tend to draw small but the pattern-sketch for their Alien Friend will need to be big and wide enough to stuff and sew. They’ll evaluate and test their sketch against a set of criteria and redesign any parts that are too small or thin.


Campers sometimes get an initial idea in their head and want to jump right in and create. But for this project, campers will be supported to push past their first idea and create a detailed backstory to bring their Alien Friend to life. Starting with a guided brainstorm, campers will generate ideas in different categories like profession, emotions, special powers, outfits and accessories. Then, they’ll mix and match ideas to truly imagine something visionary that’s never been invented before. In the example above, the result is a happy, time-traveling alien chef who wears an apron and carries a frying pan portal.

This approach to learning doesn’t happen automatically—campers could easily create an Alien Friend without ever thinking like an innovator. But campers grow their innovation skills when Galileo instructors intentionally bring the Galileo Innovation Approach to life in their classrooms.

So what does this look like? You know you’re in a Galileo environment when:

  • Partner school locations are transformed with themed decorations and spaces for campers to create and get messy, music is playing, and Galileo Innovation Approach posters are displayed throughout camp.
  • Galileo instructors introduce a mindset challenge of the day and demonstrate how to practice the mindset. These demonstrations go beyond showing campers how to mix paint colors or connect wires in a circuit—they also demonstrate how it looks, for example, to be and not be courageous or collaborative while working on a project.
  • Galileo staff are trained to use GIA language accurately and powerfully, so campers get familiar with these words and begin to internalize them.
  • Campers need to believe that the ability to innovate is within their grasp—with practice, everyone can become an innovator. To help build their identities as innovators, Galileo staff are trained to use inclusive and supportive language and guiding questions that recognize campers for practicing the innovator’s mindset and process. Instead of telling campers that their work is “awesome” or “creative,” we ask campers to reflect on what they did well or what they think they can improve; how their project meets their vision; or what challenges they had to push through to create it.

After experiencing just one week at camp, we hear many stories from families that recognize positive shifts in their campers’ behavior. This may include an increased interest in the contents of the recycling bin to make new creations, or a new confidence in their own ideas. Whether big or small, the impact of innovation skill-building has staying power.

This post is the second in a series about seeing the invisible value of camp. For more, read this blog post from our VP of Education, Pamela Briskman.