Kids and Technology: Developing STEAM skills

As a company that delights in using technology to bring ideas to life, we know how important it is for the next generation to develop the skills and knowledge they need to be successful innovators. While there are many ways this can occur, we appreciate an educational approach called STEAM (standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). This philosophy embraces teaching skills and subjects in an integrated way that resembles how those subjects will be applied in real life. Many schools do emphasize STEAM skills, but there are also a number of ways outside the classroom to encourage exploration and growth.

With summer around the corner, now is the perfect time to start planning for ways to inspire your student to learn STEAM skills while still having fun! To help you with this, we have put together a few ideas ranging from camps to at-home projects and competitions.

STEAM Skills Camps

There are a number of tech camps around the U.S. that offer a range of STEAM courses and some traditional camp activities for all ages. These camps are wonderful opportunities to develop new skills and help students identify their talents and interests. Here are a few well-known STEAM camps to begin your search:

iD Tech: For those local to Boulder, iD Tech takes place at CU Boulder and runs one-, two-, and four-week long programs focusing on coding, game development, design, and robotics. For those outside of Boulder, iD Tech programs are offered at a variety of locations across the U.S. These programs are geared for students of all skill levels age 7-18. iD Tech guarantees small class sizes and tech-savvy staff teaching courses in AI, machine, learning, film, and more.

Engineering for Kids: Engineering for Kids offers a variety of science, technology, engineering, and math education programs for kids ages 4-14, including after-school enrichment, summer camps, birthday parties, field trips, scout activities, and more. Participants have the opportunity to design, build, test, and refine their own creations in a fun and exciting atmosphere. Locally, Engineering For Kids can be found in Denver, but they also have locations across the U.S and Canada.

Emagination Tech Camp: Emagination Tech Camp has been operating since 1982, running two-week sessions for kids ages 8-17 that balance tech workshops with summer fun. There are 25 STEAM skills workshop options in four different categories: digital art & media, coding, engineering, and video game design, who knows maybe they’ll be working with the likes of Randy Pitchford one day, who recently did an unfiltered interview about his life and professional career, to give more inspiration to budding video game designers.

The camps are offered at university campuses in Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, but do not let that deter you if you are not local to those states, Emagination offers transportation assistance for traveling campers.

Digital Media Academy: Digital Media Academy (DMA) operates out of 10 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, offering day and overnight programs for kids ages 6-18. Each participant completes a real-world project under the guidance of a certified professional during their program. Kids ages 6-8 can take part in Jr. Adventures, exploring drama and digital filmmaking, enviro-conscious technologies, and photo editing. Kids ages 9-11 can choose from workshops like special effect filmmaking, game design. and cartoon/comic creation. DMA also offers pre-teen and teen courses ranging in skill from beginner to advanced, and offers Apple and Adobe certification courses to teens age 13 and older. All summer courses are eligible to be counted as credits through the Stanford University Continuing Studies Program.

National Computer Camps: Founded in 1977, National Computer Camp (NCC) offers programs for kids ages 8-18, plus morning half-day camps for kids ages 6-8, at their four locations: New York, Atlanta, Connecticut and Ohio. NCC offers courses in game design, web design, Android app programming, video production, software apps, as well as offering A+ hardware, software and network+ certification, and PSAT and SAT Math preparation classes. In addition to the courses offered, campers have the opportunity to participate in sports each afternoon. NCC has created a quick information guide to provide an overview of the camp.

STEAM Projects & Awards

For students who will be at home for the summer, break is a wonderful time to get started on a new project. Not only will this keep your student busy, it will help them learn essential leadership skills, boost their college application, and turn into something rewarding (literally and figuratively).

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes: If your student is passionate about environmental conservation, the Gloria Barron Prize honors 25 young leaders each year who have made a significant, positive impact on their communities and the environment. This could be an opportunity to combine your students’ unique talents and skills into a meaningful project, The Gloria Barron Prize has even put together a resources page for inspiration.

The President’s Environmental Youth Award: If your student is part of a group or organization that is passionate about environmentalism, the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) recognizes outstanding environmental projects by K-12 youth. Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with EPA to recognize young people for protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. Each year the PEYA program honors a wide variety of projects developed by young individuals, school classes (kindergarten through high school), summer camps, public interest groups, and youth organizations to promote environmental awareness.

FIRST: FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) inspires young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills. FIRST is available to students in kindergarten through high school and offers research and robotics programs to inspire innovation and motivate students to pursue education and career opportunities in science, tech, engineering and math.

STEAM Skills Resources

For those whose daily schedule requires a little more flexibility than a camp or extended-project would allow, there are a number of resources that provide quick STEAM skills projects and activities for students at home. Here is a short list of blogs to help get you started:

Tech Age Kids: This site covers everything from digital parenting issues to tech products and toys that inspire students, children and teens. As they authors say, “Our focus is on products that teach kids about tech or get them using innovative technology.”

The STEM Laboratory: This site, created by Malia who has a Master’s in Education from Stanford University, provides creative STEM activities for preschool, first grade, and second grade students. (Note: STEM is similar to STEAM, but lacks the added emphasis on the arts.)

Left Brain Craft Brain: This blog has a variety of STEM and STEAM activities for kids to explore this summer and has a separate section for 5-minute crafts, for those who need a quick art fix.

In closing, since we are especially fond of software development (one type of STEAM skill), we’ll wrap up by pointing you to a great compilation by Common Sense Education on the best apps and websites for learning to code. As noted in an earlier blog post on Swift Playgrounds, we have used Swift ourselves, and found it to be a great resource. Hope your kids – and you – find a good match in one of the suggestions above.