Five Surprise Ways Your Camp Is Already Doing STEM

Posted by: Pam Garza

Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is a natural—and fun!—component of summer programming for hundreds of YMCAs across the country. Yet some camps may find the commitment daunting.

You may ask: Do we have enough resources? Are our counselors properly trained? Is STEM too much like school and not enjoyable for the kids?

The truth is, your camp is already doing STEM.

And that’s a really good thing because youth who are exposed to STEM have a higher chance of developing unique talents that lead to high-paying careers and job satisfaction. STEM also helps children develop 21st century skills like critical-thinking while introducing creative ways to solve problems.

Young girl running  with football on field

Your camp is likely already integrating STEM through:

  1. Sports: When kids run, kick a soccer ball, or throw a frisbee, they’re learning about momentum, velocity, and gravity. How does speed and force affect the outcome of a game? What happens when players adjust their angle slightly?

    STEM Prompt: Suggest campers apply different levels of force (by throwing or kicking harder) and ask open-ended questions about what impacted the ball’s landing in terms of distance.
     
  1. Art projects: Kids are learning all about water properties when they paint. During an art project, students may experiment with thin water colors and thicker tempera paints. 

    STEM Prompt: Have campers move their papers all around and create art with different layers and textures. Facilitate conversation around what do you think makes this paint move faster than the other?  What do you think are the ingredients in these paints and how do we find out?
     
  2. Snacks & meals: Whenever a snack or meal is served, campers can be learning about nutrition and the human body.

    STEM prompt: During snack time, have campers look at the labels of the foods they eat (supply the packages when possible). Ask them to determine how much sugar they’re consuming and graph which foods have more sugar (or salt) than others and what does that mean for the body?
     
  3. Headcounts: Camp staff are constantly doing math on the fly. How many different size groups can I divide 86 campers into? How many slices of bread will I need for 23 sandwiches?

    STEM prompt: Think aloud when you’re crunching numbers with campers and ask them to help you arrive at the mathematical conclusion. Let them know they can work together to figure it out and let them decide how to split a larger group into three or four smaller ones.
     
  1. Dance activity: When we move our bodies we use oxygen, elevate our heart rates, and sometimes lose our balance.

    STEM prompt: Ask children to consider what makes one person able to jump higher, or spin faster without getting dizzy?  What do you notice about the body when someone jumps?  Where are their feet? How do they propel themselves? How do they land?  How many jumps can you each do in 1 minute?
     

Looking for more tips and support?


These five examples show how easily STEM can be integrated into existing activities. If your camp is ready to build on these opportunities and receive access to free tools and resources that support staff development around STEM, email STEM Project Director Pam Garza or tweet her @STEM4Youth.

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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.