Blog: Bright Ideas

Seeing the Invisible Value of Camp

Pamela Briskman, VP of Education

At Galileo, our mission is to develop innovators who envision and create a better world. While this may seem like a lofty goal for a summer camp, we take our mission very seriously. In my role, I think a lot about how to create a pedagogy and curriculum that develops innovators. I think about the impact our camps have on the many thousands of campers and staff we reach in Chicagoland, SoCal and Bay Area. And I think specifically about how our work impacts these two:

Oakley and Indigo

These are my daughters Oakley and Indigo. This photo was taken just after I spent a week visiting our camps in Southern California while my girls had an awesome time at Camp Galileo in Manhattan Beach. It was Galileo Rocks music theme week—hence the rock star face paint and hair-dos.

At the end of the week on Friday, I picked the girls up from extended care with their grocery bags full of camp projects and we began the very long drive home to the Bay Area—imagine 5 hours and 35 minutes of repeat-after-me songs and “show us how you get D-O-W-N, Mom!” But in between songs and snacks, they enthusiastically talked about camp and their projects.



Oakley was jazzed about her abstract painting where, inspired by Kandinsky, the Supernovas (3rd - 5th graders) explored how to interpret music with paint. She learned brush techniques to create different types of lines and then practiced being visionary, imagining and painting the music with line and color.



Indigo was especially proud of the lion mask she created, inspired by the roaring piano in Saint Saens musical suite, Carnival of the Animals. She talked about how the Nebulas (Pre-K – Kindergarten campers) used different materials to make their lion’s manes and how she’d courageously shared her idea for twisting tissue paper to make hairs that stick straight out. She was also proud of how hard she’d worked to make the mane thick and fluffy, determined to cover every last bit of cardboard.

When we finally got home, Indigo couldn’t wait to show her projects to her dad. She ran into the house carrying her grocery bag, reached inside to take out her lion mask... and pulled out the work of another camper. Her eyes started to well up. We had transported another camper’s grocery bag all the way to Oakland, and the lion mask and musical instruments Indigo couldn’t wait to share were still in Los Angeles!

Fortunately, this problem was fixable. With the help of Indigo’s Camp Director Skye, and the US Postal Service, everything got to its rightful home in the end. But the whole experience helped me reflect on an important fact: even without their projects, my daughters had shown me the most important things they were taking home from camp—their growth as innovators.

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 take away from Galileo.

The lasting thing that campers take home is their growing innovator’s mindset, their deepening creative confidence and their strengthening ability to turn their ideas into reality. As a part of the Galileo team who turns our unique camp experience into reality every summer, I’d like to invite you to look a bit closer to see what’s behind every project campers will create, the dedicated staff that are committed to support their campers and our mission, and the special camp ecosystem that you’ll only find at Galileo.

This post is the first in a series about seeing the invisible value of camp. For more, read this blog post about seeing the BIG idea behind every camper project.


Pamela Briskman, VP of Education at Galileo LearningPamela leads the extraordinary team of unicorns that creates the rich design projects and curriculum that inspire more than 50,000 young innovators and 2,000 educators/aspiring educators at Galileo camps each summer. She is the co-creator of the Galileo Innovation Approach, Galileo’s unique approach to teaching and learning. A graduate of Stanford University with a BA in design and a BS in product design engineering, Pamela has been working at the intersection of education and design for 25 years. She’s served as a Teach for America corps member in Oakland, taught STEM at the American School of Antananarivo in Madagascar, and designed learning experiences for National Science Foundation–funded programs, educational television, toys, and video games. She is Chief Learning Officer at Brainquake, an education technology company that produces patented, research-backed, game-based learning products that dramatically improve math proficiency. She is also co-founder of Urban Montessori Charter School, an innovative school model founded on the principles of Montessori, Design Thinking and Arts Integration. Pamela lives in Oakland with her husband and two daughters.