By Lori Bradner
STE(A)M Camp offers children ages 7 to 17 the opportunity to enhance their problem-solving skills, apply knowledge from t he previous school years, build creativity, explore innovative design challenges, build stronger social skills with their peers independent of their parents, experiment in an environment where failure is not only an option, but a first attempt in learning, and fosters an attitude of perseverance and lifelong learning.
With all these benefits for our young people, why aren’t more communities taking advantage of programs such as Janet’s Planet Astronaut Academy, which mixes STE(A)M education with fun, to help promote personal growth and career path exploration in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and math?
Newberry Opera House, in quaint Newberry, South Carolina, not only understands the benefits these types of camps offer the young people in the community but answered the pending question by establishing a STE(A)M camp model of excellence for the children. Thanks to the partnership with Janet’s Planet which began with the Total Solar Eclipse Festival, every July, elementary, middle, and high school students move at the “speed of thought” to celebrate learning and “get their hands” on science, technology, engineering and math. All this while being surrounded by the artistic inspiration of the historic Newberry Opera House. Students engage in a relaxed, fun learning environment which nurtures their self-confidence, creativity, and collegiality, and allows them to explore new technology and career paths with industry leaders. This eclectic venue and STE(A)M(s) inclusive ability-agnostic way of teaching ignites children’s passion for learning and bridges gender and ethnicity gaps found in science, technology, engineering, and math. The Newberry Opera House has created a replicable and sustainable model for summer STEM Camp.
Communities like Newberry that offer STE(A)M Camp afford children of all ages the opportunity to understand that learning is not isolated to the school year. Programs, like Janet’s Planet Astronaut Academy at the Newberry Opera House, provide the framework for students to practice “patience with perseverance” as they navigate solutions to complex, higher-order thinking problems, a lifelong skill. It fosters their natural curiosity and prepares them to think “outside the box” to support greater understanding of concepts in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math through innovation and creativity. Students who participate in these camps gain confidence, self-esteem and knowledge they will take into their classrooms the following school year. Children are encouraged to step out of their comfort zones in an environment where failure is truly recognized as a first attempt in learning.
In order to meet these objectives, STE(A)M Camp curriculum targets multiple intelligences and supports various learning styles through design challenges and play. The goal is to create lifelong learners who understand that collaboration and communication are essential for future successes. This type of cooperative environment, unlike that found in many classrooms, allows children to develop stronger social skills. Using hands-on projects, the students learn the concept and importance of shared responsibility. Pooling and applying their knowledge
in practical ways to find reasonable solutions supports greater understanding and recall of complex concepts.
To further enhance the STE(A)M camp experience, programs like Janet’s Planet Astronaut Academy at the Newberry Opera House specialize in introducing students to industry experts. Teachers and volunteers from around the globe come to share their expertise and love for learning. Guest speakers such as astronauts, engineers, FAA officials, professors, and robotic specialists from around the world interact directly with students to introduce relevant potential career paths that students may wish to pursue in the future. STE(A)M camp breaks down the “walls of the classroom” to bring the world to the students in Newberry, South Carolina. Also, partnerships with Civil Air Patrol, EAA Chapters, and places like the Triple Tree Aerodrome create field trip opportunities for students that are not normally funded during the typical school year.
Newberry Opera House’s sponsorship of Janet’s Planet Astronaut Academy is a beacon of the benefits STE(A)M camp offers to the community. It is evident they are committed to their future generations. The Newberry Opera House in partnership with Janet’s Plant Astronaut Academy has created a replicable STE(A)M camp model focused on problem-solving skills, applied knowledge, creativity, exploration, innovative design challenges, soft skill promotion, experimentation, perseverance and lifelong learning. They understand that learning is not limited to the classroom or a calendar. Learning can be fun and exciting. Newberry Opera House’s investment in STE(A)M camp creates an enjoyable and beneficial environment where students of all ages “dare to do mighty things” as they explore the plethora of future opportunities offered in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.