One way youth can become enthusiastic about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is through their parents. In fact, research shows that parents play an important role in improving children’s motivation to study STEM subjects by, among other means, ensuring that girls become successful in STEM fields and reducing math anxiety. Another way parents can influence their children is to introduce them to fun STEM camps.
Space science is one STEM field featured in youth camps. Organizations around the country offer space-themed camps that inspire a love of STEM learning. Highlights about a few of these camps follow.
Alabama – Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) in Huntsville has operated since 1982. The facility housing the camp was used in the 1950s and 1960s to develop the rockets with which the United States orbited the earth and later landed humans on the moon. Today, the USSRC facility houses NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which continuously monitors science occurring on the International Space Station.
Space Camp offers overnight camps for youth aged 9-18. An overnight family camp is offered for parents and their children aged 7 and older, and a day camp is available for youth aged 5-8. Other camps are also offered in aviation, in robotics, and on cyber themes. At all camps, participants engage in teamwork, learn about space and flight history, experience various simulators, and see such artifacts as a Saturn V rocket, a moon rock from the Apollo 12 mission, a mobile quarantine facility, and a space shuttle.
Arizona – Space Camp at Biosphere 2
In Tucson, the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 facility hosted its first Space Camp in 2019. Offered in collaboration with the University of Kyoto in Japan, this program was open to students from both universities along with other Arizona colleges and universities. In all, 10 undergraduate students participated.
The aim of the camp is to design a living environment on Mars in anticipation of eventual human trips there. Students studied the geology of Mars, food production techniques, human habitats, radiation, and both mental and physical health. For years to come, the camp will inspire even more students to devote their futures to space science.
California – AstroCamp
Established in 1988 and located in Idyllwild, AstroCamp is operated by directors with backgrounds in science and science education. Unique to this camp is its mountainous setting, allowing campers to enjoy science and nature simultaneously.
AstroCamp offers overnight camps for youth aged 8-17. Space-related activities include using telescopes, learning rocketry, and investigating planetary and solar science. Participants also learn teamwork and have the opportunity to develop their communication and problem-solving skills. Additional activities include campouts, mountain biking, archery, rock climbing, and bouldering on the camp’s 100 acres.
Florida – Camp Kennedy Space Center
Camp Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is located at NASA’s launch headquarters on Merritt Island. KSC has been the site of multiple launches from the 1960s to the present, including that of the first U.S. suborbital spaceflight in 1961 by Alan Shepard, decades of space shuttle launches, and launches today by SpaceX and others. Moreover, the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Memorial are located at KSC.
KSC offers week-long day camps for youth aged 7-16. Participants interact with KSC exhibits, including the Astronaut Training Experience, Mars Base 1, the Apollo/Saturn V Center, and Space Shuttle Atlantis. Campers also experience simulators, learn about botany by sharing growth and harvest data with NASA astronauts, work on Mars rover robotics, and complete team-based, hands-on engineering challenges. KSC also offers a program for groups of international youth.
Kansas – Cosmosphere Camps
Established as a planetarium in 1962, Hutchinson’s Cosmosphere grew to include a science center, and by 1980, it had incorporated an IMAX theater, a three-level gallery, and classrooms. Today, the Cosmosphere displays an SR-71 Blackbird supersonic jet and, as it has for the past 35 years, offers Cosmosphere Camps.
Today, day camps are offered for youth in grades 3-7, while overnight camps are offered for youth in grades 7-12. Themes explored include the solar system, the moon, Mars, space labs, and extreme flight, and participants experience simulators, hands-on activities, and problem-solving missions.
Other space camps include Mississippi’s Astro Camp at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center, Explorer Camps at Space Center Houston, the Summer Camps at NASA’s Virginia Air & Space Center, and the Virginia Space Flight Academy. With so many options, any youth can surely find an opportunity to be inspired by a love of STEM learning through one of these science-themed camps.