Increasingly, high-quality out-of-school time (OST) programming has been promoted as an effective strategy for schools to support their students academically, keep them engaged and even improve attendance throughout the academic year. However, with so many OST programs available to districts, it can be challenging to find one that not only excites students but also provides everything educators need for seamless and customizable integration.
Challenge: Find an Engaging, Easy-to-Implement Summer STEM Program
When Bryan Shumaker, STEM coordinator for Maryland’s Carroll County Public Schools, looks for an education partner for his district, especially when it comes to summer learning solutions, he is confronted with two central challenges: finding educators who are eager to teach the program and convincing students that the opportunity is different from what they experience during the school year.
“I think [one of] the biggest challenges when it comes to summer programming is involving teachers, and finding teachers that have the capacity, the willingness and the time to commit to that,” said Shumaker in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®.
Stacie Houston, Assistant Director for Camp Invention® at Mt. Airy Elementary School in Carroll County, agrees and added that many children are reluctant to return to school.
“One of the bigger challenges of summer learning is that kids do not want to come to school again,” Houston said.
Solution: Partner With the National Inventors Hall of Fame to Offer Camp Invention
Since 2013, Carroll County Public Schools has partnered with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, again and again, to support its students with hands-on summer learning through Camp Invention, our K-6 summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.
Not only has the program continued to grow, with seven Camp Invention sites signed on throughout the district, but from an implementation perspective, Shumaker is grateful that he rarely has a problem finding Instructors for the program. He appreciates how Camp Invention is both enjoyable to teach and flexible enough to allow educators the ability to augment each module depending on their specialty or area of interest.
“It has not been hard for us to find Instructors,” Shumaker said. “It’s ready to go, but also gives some of our really amazing teachers the power to differentiate and take things to different levels for their students.”
Dale Houston, an elementary through fifth-grade teacher and Camp Invention Director at Mt. Airy, appreciates how camp allows children to embrace their natural curiosity and keeps them looking forward to coming back throughout the weeklong program.
“When people think of summer learning, they might think it’s boring, not very exciting, ‘Oh, I have to go to school again,’” said Dale Houston. “But the National Inventors Hall of Fame makes exciting and engaging, open-ended tasks so kids can be creative and look forward to coming each day.”
“The students’ engagement is through the roof compared to what it is during the school year,” Stacie Houston added. “The kids are so excited to come to camp.”
When asked why he believes his district has no problems recruiting Camp Invention Instructors, Shumaker said it is because educators feel supported and have everything they need for a successful camp experience.
“It’s the knowledge that you are going to have all of the materials and the curriculum and some high-quality video to engage the students and start the explorations,” Shumaker said. “So, a first-time teacher can take it and just follow the instructions and go with it.”
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