Computer Camps Make Learning Fun
Computer camps across the country are keeping up with today’s tech-savvy youth by enhancing creativity with professional-grade software. Moving beyond basic computing skills, in day and overnight camps kids can learn how to design video games, film and edit digital movies, add 3D Flash animation to their Web sites and create digital comic books.
New computer-based classes are developed as quickly as kids request them, and camps work hard to stay one step ahead. While robotics is still in demand, Game Design and Modding — the accepted slang for modifying or adding to a video game — is now one of the hottest offerings for kids and teens.
The availability of sophisticated computer labs, attractive outdoor facilities and dorm housing make college campuses popular venues for computer camps. Three of the nation’s most popular programs draw children from all over the country to prestigious college locations, where each offers a variety of residential summer computer camp classes. Children typically enroll for one week or take different classes in subsequent weeks to create a longer camp experience.
For six years, iD Tech Camps has run its summer camp program at Carnegie Mellon University, Villanova University and 50 other top colleges in the U.S. and abroad for children ages 7-17. This camp offers parents the assurance that it meets all 300 of the nonprofit American Camp Association’s Accreditation standards. Children benefit from small class sizes with individual computers and the opportunity to work with cutting-edge software like Final Cut Pro, After Effects and Dreamweaver.
iD Tech’s vice president of marketing, Karen Thurm Safron, says children return year after year for classes in Game Design, Game Modding, Programming, Adventures in Comic Creation, RoboContenders and more.
“One of our goals is to get more girls involved in iD Tech camps, which give all children new ways to express their creativity,” says Safron.
Mirroring the technology industry, girls typically represent about 20 percent of iDTech campers.
Cybercamps Academy, now in its 12th year nationwide, will celebrate its sixth summer at Bryn Mawr College in 2008. Founded on the principle that “human brains learn more when they’re having fun,” Cybercamps organizes its classes around project-driven, five-day camp programs for children ages 10-17. This summer, in addition to classes in Game Design, Modding, Robotics, Graphics, Web Design and Flash Animation, children can also take C++ Programming at Introductory or Advanced levels.
This camp also helps kids target their interests by grouping classes for Gamers, Users and Coders. The organizers recommend multi-week tracks for youth who want to dig deeper into a group content area and build advanced skills. Children who just can’t get enough of Game Design, for example, might take a three-week track that starts with an introductory Game Design course in the first week, a 3D Game Creation in the second week and then a final week of Game Modding for Warcraft 3 or Half-Life 2.
Accredited by the American Camp Association, Cybercamps encourages kids to join Special Interest Groups to make new friends and sample new areas of technology. Special Interest Groups can be as diverse as working on the camp newsletter or learning sound editing. Computer lab time is balanced with traditional outdoor games like capture the flag, dodge ball and Ultimate Frisbee.
At the University of Pennsylvania, Digital Media Academy (DMA) will offer a residential camp program each week from July 21 through August 15 for teens, as well as Digital Media Adventures for children ages 9-13. For kids who wish to combine multiple weeks, DMA offers weekend adventures like trips to the beach and pro baseball games. Children live on the Penn campus in a dorm exclusively for DMA campers.
DMA’s Summer Computer Camp for Teens is designed to help teens explore possible career paths, prepare for college, gain practical work skills and even earn certification. As the only summer computer program accredited by Stanford University, all of DMA’s five-day classes are eligible for an optional four quarter units of credit through the Stanford University Continuing Studies Program. Teens with advanced skills may also take college and professional level courses in DMA’s ProSeries during the camp period. Because DMA offers an entirely separate program geared for younger children, the teen camp can offer a faster-paced, more challenging curriculum in classes like Character Design with Maya or Hands-On Digital Filmmaking. Classes for children and teens are taught by post-college media professionals only.
Even very young children can benefit from early experience on the computer. At summer day camps offered by preschools, day care centers or youth development organizations like the YMCA, an hour or two of supervised computer time can teach children skills that equip them for communication in the 21st century.
Parents say that computer camp programs give their children an opportunity to explore something they already enjoy, to learn new skills and to have fun. On hot days, an air-conditioned classroom can be a comfortable alternative to outdoor activities.
Ellen Warren writes for the American Camp Association’s Keystone Section, serving camps and camp families in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Learn more about ACA at www.campparents.org. Contact ACA Keystone Section at email@example.com or