Blog: Bright Ideas

Summer Learning for Elementary Students: Choosing the Right Camp

Imagine having a chance to engineer and test a simulated lung strong enough to lift bigger and bigger pieces of furniture as it fills. Imagine learning about electrical engineering and sturdy construction as you make a motorized Mars rover that’s complete with a durable frame, drive system circuitry and attachments for conquering Red Planet-specific challenges. Imagine the opportunity to build and test a durable, lightweight, air-launched rocket car that can cross the finish line fastest at Route 66 Raceway. Not exactly ho-hum summer learning experiences, are they? 

These days, summer camp is no longer limited to arts and crafts and campfire songs. With modern camps, the possibilities are endless, and there are a wealth of fascinating enrichment programs available for elementary students during the summer. By choosing the right camp for your kids, you can ensure they will have not only a fun-filled summer but also active adventures that foster growth and keep them learning all summer long.

Why Summer Learning Matters

Kids work hard through the months that school is in session, ideally achieving a year’s worth of academic growth. But learning should not stop over the summer; keeping the brain active and exercised is important. Though vacation stasis can lead to learning loss or summer setback, the phenomenon by which kids lose achievement gains made during the school year, quality summer learning can have a protective effect. 

But rather than a narrow review or rehashing of traditional school programs, many parents are opting for a blended approach in which academic content is integrated with 21st-century competencies like communication, collaboration, creativity, innovation and critical thinking. These are educational summer camps that have broader themes, such as leadership skills, problem-solving and innovative thinking, where kids are challenged to learn a process that brings ideas to life. Rather than focusing on a single skill or context, these programs give kids opportunities to develop a variety of interpersonal and self-management skills that will be useful and beneficial throughout their lives.

Seeking The Best of Summer Learning

Whether your child’s camp celebrates the science of the human body or encourages kids to create amazing things out of unexpected materials, it should involve campers in authentic learning experiences that cultivate curiosity and build confidence, including:

  • Immersive learning experiences motivate purposeful, imaginative exploration as kids play a role in solving realistic problems. Opportunities to think and act like a scientist, engineer, designer or inventor capture their imagination while reinforcing their capacity to take meaningful action.
  • Active learning experiences capture kids’ innate curiosity and harness their tremendous potential for creativity, empowering them to act on their ideas. Whether sketching designs, constructing 3D models or working prototypes, kids will gain confidence in the value of their contributions. 
  • Learning occurs when kids are empowered to think, to reason, to make connections and figure things out. Discussions with other campers and with camp staff allow them to “talk the talk” as their ideas expand and take flight. Teamwork and collaborative skills are highlighted.
  • Summer learning programs for elementary students engage passionate, energetic staff that often includes professional educators. They are trained to lead campers through developmentally appropriate discovery activities that elicit critical thinking and productive struggle.

Camp Galileo campers working together

Creative Competencies

Though many summer learning programs specialize in a particular discipline or topic, others focus on general competencies that benefit all kids. By imparting general knowledge and helping them develop a growth mindset, an innovation camp, such as Camp Galileo, promotes the Galileo Innovation Approach®. Through a variety of engaging themes and activities grounded in science, art and outdoor play, the GIA helps kids view themselves as courageous, collaborative, determined and reflective visionaries. 

Philosopher and educator John Dewey is credited with the observation, “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” As kids spend a week focused on the Innovator’s Process, they learn to look back and learn from their mistakes. By presenting projects kids want to tackle, Galileo helps them build critical thinking, collaboration and self-management skills, like perseverance and creative problem-solving. Failed attempts become steps on the road to success.

Make The Summer Count

When school is out, the warm weather and relaxed atmosphere provide a perfect setting for idyllic summer learning. Finding a camp that promotes active play, while inviting elementary students to follow their curiosity and stretch their creativity will inspire enthusiastic participation. The resulting gains will be evident in lessons learned and skills attained. Selecting a camp that builds broad competencies which have long-term benefits is a forward-thinking choice. When that camp leads kids to make discoveries and challenges creative and critical thinking, they will be primed for the coming school year with the skills and mindset of an enthusiastic learner. 

To find an innovation camp in the San Francisco, Southern California, and Chicagoland areas, check out Camp Galileo. 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.