Science summer camps: a summer pastime with no CON’s

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What is the best way to tame an unruly student?  “Threaten them with the possibility of summer school”, said one of my associate teachers during my practicum.  Surprisingly, even my most enthusiastic students were opposed to ANY form of learning during the summer! By holding numerous conversations with them I determined the four major causes of their fears.

The GRADE FACTOR (applies to public summer school programs)
  • Quote from a student: “I am constantly nervous about not doing well on the upcoming tests are that are hanging over my head”
  • Quote from a student: “All my friends will think that I dumb because I have to do summer school”
  • Quote from a student: “Everyone is at the beach and I am stuck in the classroom/at home studying/with a tutor/etc.”
  • Quote from a student: “Only nerds would study during the summer. If my friends find out I would be teased”

I thought for a long time trying to come up with a solution to this season-related problem of learning.  Math and science camps seem to be the best option because they address all four fear factors that the students seem to have.

The Grade Factor – CRUSHED!
  • Most summer camps do not grade students on their performance and as a result students perform better. When there are no tests to worry about, students are more likely to embrace challenging ideas, to take risks, to make mistakes and to learn from them.
The Shame Factor – CRUSHED!
  • Many science and math camps only accept students who proved to be enthusiastic learners. Often a recommendation letter from a teacher is required. Your wish to participate in such a camp will indicate your enthusiasm to gain deeper understanding of new and exciting scientific concepts, not your lack of previous knowledge.
The Boredom Factor – CRUSHED!
  • Who told you that all we do at math and science camps is sit around in a classroom, endlessly copying notes from the board?  Camps offer a variety of day (and sometimes night) activities that include day trips, hands-on experiments, scavenger hunts, etc. You will be glad to spend your time in an intellectually stimulating environment instead of passively laying on the beach and getting sun-burned.
The Popularity/Unpopularity Factor – CRUSHED!
  • Who needs “friends” who will tease you for your ambitious goals to learn more about math, science or any other subject for that matter? Participating in a camp is an excellent opportunity to make new friends who share your interests!  You will also learn valuable communication and collaboration skills that are so necessary for any job you will ever wish to hold in the future!

I was not lucky enough to participate in math or science camps as a student but I participated in numerous math-related clubs and events. Most of my insight moments happened there and the friends that I made are still with me. I am a recent graduate and I can confidently say that I would be prepared for my first year at university much better if all the UofT summer programs were available for me when I was in high school. Since I am also a teacher, I can tell that my students who participated in various science camps over the summer perform a lot better during the school year. So, really, if you choose to dedicate several weeks of your summer break to learning, you can’t go wrong.

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