The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) movement is important for three reasons. The first is jobs: high paying, technical jobs of the future. The second is access: to technological advancements, digital communication and all of the improvements that make life easier and more enjoyable. The third reason (and perhaps the most important) is the future of our world; it will be heavily influenced by the innovators of tomorrow. As parents, we want to prepare our kids for all of it. For our daughters, who still face historical bias and negative stereotypes, we want to level the playing field and give them a fighting chance to be full participants.
As hard as it is to challenge gender bias and stereotypes, there are definitely allies who recognize the need for inclusive educational and hiring practices. Universities and industry leaders have a vested interest in the number of qualified applicants available, so they devote substantial resources to helping prepare girls and minority students. In addition, many organizations and non-profits are attempting to change outdated patterns and prepare all kids for informed and equitable participation. The middle school years have been identified as vital for building college and career readiness, though unfortunately these are the same years when girls’ confidence levels drop sharply. STEM summer camps for girls provide a collaborative environment for exploring interests and passions with the opportunity to shore up confidence levels at a truly critical time.
Programs Dedicated to Girls
The best programs for girls are those founded on the passionate belief in their abilities and talents. The Girl Scouts of America is one such example. Founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, it has truly been a game-changing organization for girls. Formed to parallel the Boy Scouts, its mission is to help girls learn practical skills and build character; girls’ issues are Girl Scouts’ issues. Through its badge programs, girls select areas of interest to learn through active projects. 106 years later, the organization is focused on nurturing G.I.R.L.s (go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, leaders)TM. As a result, Girl Scouts are nearly twice as likely as non-scouts to participate in STEM activities.
Girls Who Code is a non-profit formed more recently and dedicated to achieving gender parity in computer science by 2027. Through afterschool clubs and summer programs, they are “building the largest pipeline of future female engineers in the United States.” Many other leaders of industry also have programs for girls in STEM, including NASA, Intel, Microsoft, and Lockheed Martin. They sponsor summer programs, but also provide support to schools in the form of curriculum, mentoring and initiatives, such as First Robotics.
The Benefits of STEM and STEAM Summer Camp
Among programs for elementary and middle school kids, STEM summer camps provide some of the most engaging, fun and educational activities. First and foremost, summer represents a warm and relaxed opportunity to participate in learning activities. Without the routines of school, including homework, tests and grades, kids can focus on the enjoyment inherent in STEM learning. In addition, though there are many outstanding camps for girls, a co-ed camp presents an authentically diverse environment that parallels the real world where kids work, learn and play together.
Camp Galileo is a summer camp that strives to eliminate bias and takes pride in preparing all campers to be fearless innovators. Since Galileo camps integrate art and design thinking along with the best of the STEM subjects, they are aptly considered a STE(A)M summer camp. The addition of art and outdoor activities makes them an inclusive environment for summer learning that appeals to more campers. Programs for kids entering Pre-K through 5th grade captivate the imagination while engaging them in thoughtful problem-solving. Creative themes appeal to kids’ innate curiosity, while relevant, real-world scenarios draw them in, motivating active involvement and collaboration as kids work together, learning from and with their teammates.
For older kids, those entering 5th through 8th grades, Galileo Summer Quest provides unique opportunities for hands-on, minds-on study of exciting majors. Each week-long concentration invites campers to immerse themselves in practical, open-ended projects such as cooking creative breakfasts or desserts, engineering go-karts or catapults, game design, robotics or an escape room challenge. Though each project has a product (like 3-D prints, Minecraft® mods, or YouTube videos), the design process campers learn is even more important. Through immersion in the Galileo Innovation Approach®, they gain comfort with taking risks and learn to view mistakes as necessary steps on the road to success. This experience helps to counteract that dip in confidence that research has found impacts girls the most between nine and fourteen years of age. Though counterintuitive, it turns out that “messing up” and then successfully recovering is a true confidence builder.
Giving Girls Every Opportunity
Preparing girls for active participation in the 21st century means helping them find comfort and enjoyment in science, math, engineering and computer technology. They must also develop confidence in taking risks. Early and relevant exposure is the key, while their natural curiosity is strong and before bias and stereotypes have challenged their confidence. Summer is a great time and camp is an ideal place to explore interests and ignite passions. The collaborative atmosphere and emphasis on fun allows for supported exploration and deeper involvement. STEM and STEAM camps offer opportunities to develop solid skills and a growth mindset, preparing them to go confidently into the world and crush the challenges they encounter.
This is part three of a three-part series on girls in STEM. You can also read about how we can create opportunities for girls in STEM and some of the specific barriers that girls in STEM face, and how we can continue to inspire them to overcome these challenges.
In search of an empowering STEAM experience for girls and boys? Check out these camps in your area: San Francisco, Southern California, and Chicagoland. Register for a camp session or sign up for our mailing list to keep up-to-date with camp happenings and innovation resources. Or, for more information about Galileo camps, contact us here.