Why STEAM Education is the Best (From a Totally Unbiased Point of View)
I think it's safe to say that we all want to see children grow up to be successful and happy. One way to ensure this is by giving them opportunities to grow in areas that interest and challenge them. Which is why STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) curriculum has become increasingly important. Enrolling your child in a STEAM camp during Spring and Summer break can be a great way to keep them engaged, foster their curiosity, and help them develop skills for the future.
At Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation, we host yearly Spring and Summer break STEAM camps through our Student Stewards program.
During this year's spring break camp, kids will explore two exciting themes over two weeks. During the first week (Animals on the Job) they will learn about the roles animals play in our lives and the ecosystem. The second week (Galaxy Explorers) will teach kids about space travel and what it takes to be an astronaut and an engineer.
If the themes alone aren’t enticing enough, here are some reasons why you should consider enrolling your child in a STEAM camp this spring break:
STEAM curriculum develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills
STEAM education is all about developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These are valuable skills that will serve your child well in all areas of life, from school to their future career. By enrolling your child in a STEAM camp, you can allow them to develop these skills in a fun and engaging way.
Speaking from personal experience, I have never seen kids as engaged and excited to learn as I have while teaching science and engineering in a camp setting. There’s so much more flexibility in camp than there is in the classroom (believe me… I’ve taught middle school). In the classroom, I only have 45 minutes each day to hit every standard and make class engaging. Whereas at camp, we have the
WHOLE day dedicated to science with your kids. That means we have lots of time for my FAVORITE critical thinking activities—Engineering Design Challenges (EDCs)!
One of my favorite ways to introduce kids to circuits, for example, is through Scribble Bots—an EDC that challenges kids to make a writing robot! There’s really nothing else like giving kids just a few wires, a battery, and some recycled materials and watching them build a functioning robot given these constraints. Of course, they get a lesson on circuits before starting their Scribble Bots, but the rest really is up to them.
Do they hit walls and get frustrated throughout the design process? Of Course! But that’s what STEAM curriculum is all about. It’s all about kids developing a Growth Mindset. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, you can read more about it from the National Science Teaching Association. From what I’ve observed, along with other reading I’ve done about harboring a Growth Mindset, overcoming a little bit of academic struggle is really the best way for kids to develop their critical thinking skills. Not only that, but EDCs, like Scribble Bots, also allow for moments of true innovation, which brings me to my next point.
STEAM fosters creativity and innovation
STEAM education is not just about memorizing facts and figures. It's also about fostering creativity and innovation. By enrolling your child in a STEAM camp, you can allow them to explore their creativity and come up with innovative solutions to problems.
Have you ever heard of a Rube Goldberg Machine? It’s an overly-complicated chain-reaction machine meant to perform a simple task. I use them as a way to teach kids about simple machines like levers, pulleys, and inclined planes.
Last summer, my students used their week of camp to take this EDC and make a lemonade machine. Each day, we started with a lesson on a different simple machine and they completed a short, mini EDC about that specific machine. For example, one day they made balloon and rubber band cars to learn about wheels before adding them to their Rube Goldberg Machine. There were so many moments where the kids had to completely redesign their machines. They were tired. At times they felt defeated…but they never stopped (cough, cough –Growth Mindset – cough). In the end, the kids really did have a working lemonade machine. Unfortunately, all I can show you of this is their initial blueprint, but it really worked! I swear!
Our camps encourage collaboration and communication
STEAM education is not just about individual achievement. It's also about working together as a team and communicating effectively. By enrolling your child in a STEAM camp, you can allow them to work with other children, learn from each other, and develop important social skills.
Going back to the Rube Goldberg Machine, please believe me when I say the kids did that all by themselves. All I did was give a few lessons on simple machines. The kids put themselves into design
teams, chose their own team leaders, and assigned one another separate tasks.
Sure, I was there to settle a few arguments here and there or soothe a frustrated or overstimulated kid. However, I only stepped in when it was absolutely necessary. I am a firm advocate for kids settling their own arguments. You’d be surprised how good they are at communicating when you give them the chance.
At the end of the week, through all the trials and tribulations, my campers had one cohesive machine and accomplished what they set out to do. There’s no way they could have done that without developing excellent communication skills.
Kids can explore potential career paths
STEAM fields are growing rapidly and offer many exciting career opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEAM jobs are projected to grow by 8.8% between 2018 and 2028, which is just over 3% faster than the average for all occupations. By enrolling your child in a STEAM camp, you can help them explore their interests and potentially set them on a path to a fulfilling career.
In fact, this spring break we are bringing in several professionals to talk to your kids about their particular expertise. One of these professionals is a Reno local who graduated from UNR and went on to work on NASA missions with Lockheed Martin. Another one of these professionals helped us out with culling invasive plants at Rosewood Nature Study Area.
If you want to hear more about the guest speakers coming to camp this spring break, you’ll have to enroll! [insert wink]
With all of that said, enrolling your child in a STEAM camp during Spring and Summer break can be a great way to keep them engaged, foster their curiosity, and help them develop important skills for the future. Our Student Stewards Science Camp is an excellent option, with its two exciting themes of "Animals on the Job" and "Galaxy Explorers." In these camps, your kid will learn all about animals, their environment, space, and engineering. Better yet, they’ll get to explore potential career paths. So what are you waiting for? Enroll your child in a STEAM camp today!
About the Author:
Brittany is originally from a small, rural town in southern Nevada. She grew up herping with her family in the mojave desert. She attended UNR and studied MANY things before settling on Wildlife Ecology. Her summers in college were spent teaching STEM camps and she was a substitute teacher during the school year, which made her fall in love with education. Currently, she is finishing up a degree in both elementary and secondary science education. Seeing a kid get excited about science is unlike any other feeling. If you ever have a question about reptiles or toads, she is your go-to gal!