Over a decade ago when I started teaching sixth grade one of my first questions were about the school’s science camp program. I was teaching in the same district I had attended as a sixth grader and remembered the major event science camp was. I also had student taught at a school in the same district the previous year and was able to attend and teach at science camp as a student teacher. I was ready and excited to plan and execute a few days of outdoor education for my new school.
I quickly learned I had arrived one year too late. The previous school year had been the final year science camp had been a capstone to students’ elementary education. The reason…funding. It was explained to me that in the nineties science camp field trips had been funded through state and district budgets. I asked my mom if there was a cost when I attended science camp in the nineties and she couldn’t recall but said if there was it wasn’t a memorable amount. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way and as budgets were cut science camp costs and funding was shifted to being the school’s total responsibility. Some schools could afford to continue the program, others couldn’t. I also have since learned that many science camps were also cut due to the rising costs and the constant addition of responsibilities onto the teacher’s shoulders. It takes a lot of work to plan and execute a quality camp experience and teams have to decide where to put their time in the many programs and initiatives that occur each year.
Still, there are a few science camps that schools run. From talking with educators in other districts this is typically done in fifth or sixth grade, typically the end of the student’s elementary experience depending on whether the district has a middle school or junior high model. These camps are typically two to three days and involve going somewhere up in the mountains. They focus on the science standards but also have a lot of social-emotional experiences from camp skits and cheers to the independence of being away from home for a night or two.
After researching there was not any research I could find about the specific benefits of school science camps, but there are many good reasons for camp and a student’s educational experience including but not limited to (11 Lasting Benefits of Summer Camp):
- Camp helps students build a specific interest
- Camp eliminates and reinvents categories students may find themselves in socially
- Camp allows for a deep dive into new skills
- Camp leads to a new type of friendship building
- Camp helps with mental and physical stimulation
- Camp reinforces independence and empowerment
- Camp allows for confidence to be reinforced by success
- Camp leads to creativity, free of judgment
- Camp builds all-around resilience
- Camp instills appreciation and gratitude
- Camp is fun and entertaining
Furthermore, now having been at a school that does have science camp for the sixth-grade students, this three-day experience immerses students in the outdoors. Many times this is students’ first experience outside of the city area, the first time in the mountains, seeing so many stars at night, and even experiencing snow when it has snowed some years. As I read more about outdoor education, here are “10 Ways that Outdoor Learning Benefits your Child:”
- develop reflective and inquisitive thinking along with problem-solving approaches in ‘real’ situations
- encourage holistic development of children
- develop resilience and adaptability in occasionally adverse circumstances
- allow children to become more able to identify hazards and risks
- develop a love, appreciation, and respect for nature and all that is living
- develop an understanding of how we can look after our environment
- develop self-awareness, confidence, and self-esteem
- develop collaborative-working and communication skills
- provide positive health benefits – both physically and mentally – and assist gross and fine-motor development
- develop a lifelong love of the outdoors
Does your school offer a camp experience? Is it part of a club or for the entire class? Do you send your own children to an outdoor camp experience? Share your experiences in the comments.
10 Ways the Outdoor Learning Benefits your Child, retrieved from https://www.independentschoolparent.com/school/outdoor-learning-benefits/
11 Lasting Benefits of Summer Camp, retrieved from https://www.idtech.com/blog/benefits-of-summer-camp-infographic