Many people think of summer, when schools are closed, as a time off from learning. However, the open schedule and freedom of summer vacation can be an opportune time for students to explore topics usually not covered in a classroom; to delve more deeply into interests that they can only cover superficially otherwise; to actually do things that they have only ever read about or watched on television.
Many communities offer a wide variety of summer camps that are focused on specific topics or content areas. These might include camps on computer coding, marine biology, space, or animal rescue. These camps can provide incredible opportunities for all students–even middle and elementary students–to learn about the world around them, build new and important skills, and expand their understanding of what is possible.
Benefits of Camp-Based Experiential Learning Opportunities
Summer camps can provide students with opportunities to:
- Deeply explore interests and passions that are not available in a typical school setting.
- Interact with professionals and experts in a field that interests them.
- Collaborate and connect with peers who are also interested in a particular topic or type of skill.
- Engage in hands-on, real world learning and skill-building.
- Expand their experience base by interacting with a community beyond their school or neighborhood and build independence.
Ways Schools Can Encourage These Opportunities
School counselors can support families in finding relevant camps that might interest their students and provide them with unique opportunities for learning over the summer.
- Curate a List of Available Opportunities: One of the most helpful ways that school counselors can encourage students to participate in summer learning is to find available camps and keep an ongoing list. Counselors might look to local universities, museums, performing arts centers, cultural centers, humane societies, zoos, aquariums, and even local businesses that have opportunities for summer enrichment.
- Communicate Opportunities to Parents: Oftentimes, parents are unaware of the programs that exist in a community. School counselors can be integral in sharing the list of options with families–both broadly in school communications and with families of students who have specific interests. It is vital to communicate enrollment dates, application deadlines, specific requirements, and cost.
- Connect Families with Scholarship and Funding Opportunities: Some camps come with an extremely high cost, which can be a barrier for families. When communicating with families, include any information about possible scholarship opportunities or grant funding that might be available and the process to apply.
- Provide Ways to Extend the Experience: Many school districts have secondary magnet programs that align with some of the topics explored in summer camps. These might include STEM, performing arts, and marine science programs. As students return in the fall, use the positive experiences during the summer as a springboard for bringing these potential programs to the attention of families.
Summer camp opportunities can be incredibly meaningful and life changing for students. They offer a firsthand look at what their future might hold. As students work to understand themselves and their interests, they can begin to consider future choices and possibilities.
This summer, even as school counselors are on break, they can pay attention to what opportunities are available in local communities to help inform outreach to students and families in the next school year.