First off, have you even heard of a STEAM summer camp? Until very recently, I hadn’t. When I let my girls know I was considering signing them up for a day camp in Langley by Zen Maker Lab that focusses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, they didn’t look too impressed.
“Mom, we’re supposed to be done with school for summer,” said my oldest, Molly who just turned 12.
“Yea, why would you make us go to that?” chimed, Zoe, 10.
I felt like a mean mom but had a suspicion they’d come around if they gave it a chance. So, ahead I went with registration for Zen Maker’s Design Challenge day camp: Building an LED Clock. The camp was held at a church nearby from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and there were only a few other kids in their class, which meant they’d get a lot of personalized attention.
While there are numerous STEAM Summer Camps popping up in our area, here are 5 reasons we are glad we decided to enrol our kids with Zen Maker’s this summer. (Psst… there’s a promo code at the bottom to save $50 on registration).
Zen Maker Lab started back in 2013 as one of the first maker labs in Vancouver, allowing members to use their workshops for a variety of different computer, digital-art, science, and tech projects. Recently, Zen Maker Lab expanded its offerings to provide education for youth throughout the Greater Vancouver Area and Fraser Valley in the form of school partnerships, programs and summer camps. To date, over 10,000 kids have taken part in these offerings, including my two girls! There are camps in Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Langley, Richmond, White Rock, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, and many more.
2. The Instructors
In schools, teachers are not experts in STEAM, and often lack the technical skills or equipment to give students hands-on direct practical experience.
At the Zen Maker Lab camps, youth are taught and led by engineers and designers with experience in teaching. Molly and Zoe loved their instructors, and I always heard lots of laughter between them at pickup time.
3. The Mad Skills Your Child Will Learn
The subject matter does change based on the type of camp that a student chooses. For example, Zen Maker’s introductory “Mini Film-Maker Camp” is different than the “Electric Car Design Challenge” or “Robotics, Design and Coding” camps. All of these week-long summer camps dive into several areas of STEAM, just varying in depth and level.
Zoe and Molly took part in Zen Maker’s Design Challenge: Building an LED Clock. Though each design challenge is named after a particular activity, there are many different exercises that they had a chance to participate in. They practiced 3D Design using Tinkercad, making their own 3D models. They also created stop motion digital animations using PixelArt, and learned the basics of electronics using real life electronic kits. While building the LED Clock, Zoe and Molly were taken through the basic programming syntax, variable declaration and assignments, and math in programming.
3. Access to Equipment
Students have access to high level equipment like 3D printers, high-end cameras, and software like TinkerCad and PixelArt, which are used by professionals in the real world.
4. For all Experience Levels
Youth do not need to have any experience in STEAM areas to be successful. For Molly and Zoe, it was their first introduction to it.
Activities start off with some background and theory about the topic, to get campers interested and familiar with the content and what it is used for. Then, instructors will go through each step of the activity together as a group, while doing their own design displayed on a projector as an example. The activity is more rigid at the beginning, becoming less structured and more student led near the end to allow for their own creativity and designs. Finally, they do group presentations and demos to see what everyone created.
5. You’ll Save $50 Through Our Promo Code
Let’s face it, summer camp can be expensive — especially when you have multiple children. That’s why I’m excited to partner with Zen Maker Lab to help all my fellow parents out there save $50 on registration. All you have to do is use our promo code “valleymom.”
While my girls may have been hesitant about the camp, they learned a powerful lesson — not to dismiss something they’ve never tried. Even though there were a few activities they found challenging throughout their week, they had amazing leaders who helped them find the strength and courage to complete the tasks. It took me until the age of 39 to face a university math course (one I ended up acing, despite all those years of anxiety and doubt), and I don’t want my girls to have to wait that long to pursue their goals, especially the difficult ones. And while they learned new skills and were introduced to some of the most advanced cutting-edge STEAM technology, they also had a blast making new friends and bringing home all the creative projects they made.
For more information or to find a STEAM Camp in your neighbourhood, visit www.zenmakerlab.com.