Blogs  |  8.28.2023

Campers Explore Their Future in STEM

This summer, Challenger Learning Centers across the country hosted in-person and virtual summer camps for children of all ages. From Earth science to robotics, to astronomy, and everything in between, Centers provided a variety of STEM-themed camps for K-12 learners. Check out just a few of these summer camp experiences:

Challenger Learning Center at Paducah

An interest in STEM was sparked in more than 500 kids who attended summer camps at Challenger Learning Center at Paducah this summer. While most camps were intended for younger children, the Center offered a few new opportunities for high schoolers this year as well. This Center is one of a few organizations in the rural area of Paducah, Kentucky, that offers STEM-related camps, giving local students an opportunity to not only have fun during the summer, but enjoy incredible learning experiences as well. In addition to amazing STEM experiences, campers also learn team building, problem-solving, decision-making, and communication—all skills they’ll need in the workforce one day.

Campers explored planets, stars, constellations, and other space-related topics at Astrotot, Explore: Stars, Explore: Space, Mission to Mars, and Underwater Astronaut camps; became secret agents at Spy Camp, young Jedis at Rebel Camp, and special investigators at CSI Camp; mastered robotics at Robotics: We Do Science and Robotics: EV3 Space Challenge camps; learned the basics of flight at Aviation Camp; and explored drones at Drone Camp.

One young man came out of his shell during his Spy Camp experience and shared, “This was the best day ever!”

Challenger Learning Center of Alaska

Accessibility to summer camps in Alaska can be difficult due to the vast distance between communities. To ease this challenge, Challenger Learning Center of Alaska welcomed campers to stay in their “space dorms” during the week-long camps. The Center also awarded scholarships to some of their campers through a Summer Camp Initiative Grant, made possible through The Alaska Community Foundation, in partnership with the Rasmuson Foundation.

In Astronauts Alive camp, 1st through 3rd graders blasted into space and discovered the tools, systems, and resources they needed to explore, work, and live in their new interstellar home. Hands-on activities included testing blood circulation in the body in relation to gravity, learning how to orient themselves while spinning in space, and reconstructing changing pressure using vacuum jars. One of the students’ favorite challenges was engineering how to land a rover on a target. After a full week, all activities led to the big event: Building a habitat Moon structure!

During Power Up camp, 4th through 6th graders learned about energy and electricity, focusing on essential energy sources and transformations (petroleum, natural gas, geothermal, solar, and nuclear). Hands-on exploratory projects uncovered how energy is consumed and conserved in everyday life and space. Using other forms of physical energy, campers designed, engineered, and tested catapults and enjoyed racing aluminum can cars using static electricity.

Challenger Learning Center of Las Cruces

Summer was filled with exciting scientific discoveries at Challenger Learning Center of Las Cruces as students participated in the Asteroids, Comets, Meteoroids…Oh My! camp. The one-day camps were held for 3rd through 5th-grade students who learned about a wide variety of science and engineering topics. Campers investigated crater formation in the Impact Lab, engineered balloon rockets, created a comet nucleus with dry ice, and studied a long-period comet through the simulated Operation Comet mission!

Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana

Between weeklong camps, one-day pop-up camps, and summer programs for local community organizations, Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana (CLCNWI) saw more than 330 students this summer, with nearly 50 children returning from last year. Every year, families travel from near and far for this Center’s camps, which is a testament to their quality. This year, one family traveled nearly 2 hours each way, while another boy came all the way from Virginia to stay with his grandma and attend camp.

One parent shared, “My son was super excited to go to Astrotots Camp every day. He came home talking about science, telling our family what he had learned. We even replicated some experiments at home to teach my other children!”

Another parent who has brought their son for multiple years said, “I’m a scientist so I love that my son was able to participate in this STEM camp with topics ranging from genetics to making a kaleidoscope. My son really enjoyed the planetarium and ice age topics. We even liked last year’s camp so much that we referred his bestie to join him this year!”

Because the Center sees many of the same children year after year through their camps and other programming, they’re able to witness students’ continued growth—from increased knowledge and interest in STEM to leadership and social skills. They’ve also been able to engage more students and families within their community by partnering with other local organizations like the Humane Society, Purdue University Northwest, and Lake County Solid Waste Management Department. It’s been a community touchpoint for all!

Challenger Learning Center of Richland County School District One

This year, campers at Challenger Learning Center of Richland County School District One were exposed to rocketry, robotics, aviation, drones, and space science. Those who completed the Center’s full series of rocketry camps also completed the requirements for the National Association of Rocketry NARTrek Cadet Program—Mercury Level. Campers who completed introductory aviation and drone camps will be able to sign up for the Center’s advanced versions of these camps next year. These more advanced camps prepare students for the related Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exams.

The best “testimonials” the Center received weren’t through words, but rather, through the number of campers who returned from previous summers and/or those who participated in multiple camps this year. Parents have also often been overheard saying, “I wish I could have attended a camp like this when I was a child!” These statements inspired the Center’s additional Family Fun Rocket Camp, where parents attended camp with their children to learn how to build and launch a model rocket.

2024 Summer Camps

While the 2023-2024 school year has just begun, keep an eye on Challenger Center’s website for details about 2024 Challenger Learning Center summer camps. Info will be shared in early 2024!