Registration is open for Thinkery’s Spring Break and Summer Camps! So, we sat down with Camp Manager Charles Morris and Camp Coordinator Kate Wilcox to learn about all the brand-new themes, locations and changes that will are part of this year’s camps. Plus, what exciting surprises campers can look forward to this year!
Q: What’s new about Thinkery camps this year?
Charles: A ton is new about camps every year! We are always trying to move forward by looking at feedback from the year before—what activities did campers enjoy the most [last year]? We look to learn from those activities and take elements from them and make better activities for the campers. Any camper that comes back this year will feel a new experience and have a great time!
Q: Which new camp theme are you most excited about?
Charles: They are all fantastic themes, but if I had to pick they would be Food DIY and Level Up. Food DIY is a very different camp, it’s something we have never done before. We’re investigating to see what we can and can’t do with food. We came up with innovative ways to have this camp, so it’s not a cooking camp, but a STEAM Camp that revolves around using food, looking at food and what food does!
I’m excited about [Level Up] because I love games, and love the idea of kids programming their own games. They really get to create something that’s theirs. Makey Makey and Micro Bit are tools that will be used in the camp; they are cool pieces of technology.
Kate: I’m super excited about Make It or Break It because it’s not like any other maker camps—we’ll be constructing AND destructing! We’re using our messy, hands-on activities as an opportunity to work through the steps of the Design Process while recognizing failure and learning from it. With all ages, we will be intentionally teaching campers that failure is the mother of invention! I’m most looking forward to collaborating with campers during our empathy-based engineering challenges, where we’ll be learning together how to design with others in mind. As a bonus, this camp is going to include a bunch of cool tools, like simple machines!
Program, Animate, Create is going to be really exciting for campers because now in the 21st century they are surrounded by video content, social media content and more. In this camp, they get to produce some of that. Educators help build those skills of creating and using coding, customizing games and telling stories through a variety of media.
Q: What makes Thinkery camps different from other camps?
Charles: When making activities, we base them off Thinkery’s mission, so we are creating innovative learning experiences for campers. We really take that to heart and focus on how we are going to make this the coolest camp. What you see in Thinkery’s STEAM camps is special because it isn’t just a science camp, isn’t just an art camp, isn’t just a programming camp; it’s all those things. We are finding ways to incorporate all of STEAM together. Much like the real world. You’re not just doing science every day, you’re doing lots of different things. Combining all those elements in STEAM makes for a real special camp!
Kate: What makes Thinkery camps unique and special is that all our activities are based off the Innovators’ Pledge that we do with the campers; they’re learning to be curious, creative, courageous, collaborative, and compassionate. As educators, we are mindful and intentional about what we are teaching the campers. We have educators talking to these kids about community and how what they are learning is connected to the world outside of the classroom. We let kids have choices so we are not just giving them something to do, but we are building together.
Q: What skills do campers learn during and after camp is over?
Charles: Social and emotional learning at camp is huge. Especially with Pre-K and Kindergarten campers. It is sometimes their first time being dropped off for a full day experience without their parents. You see them learning how to collaborate with other people and come out of their shells in the course of a week. We go through a lot of different skills—whether it’s just learning about a topic or how things work, along with everyday skills and people skills.
Kate: Everyone on the Camps team and educator team realizes we have a unique opportunity at Thinkery Camps because we are an informal education organization. We are STEAM education and there are many ways to create this special camp experience. Always being mindful of that, we are providing kids with the opportunity to gain many skills from social, emotional learning to working with power tools. These are skills that they wouldn’t get in any another setting. We work all year around trying to find things that kids couldn’t learn somewhere else.
Q: Thinkery is hosting camps at four different locations this summer. How do you choose the other locations for Thinkery’s camps?
Charles: When looking for locations, we want Thinkery’s camps to be accessible…not just be [in the] Thinkery/Mueller area, but all areas of Austin. We are trying to spread out to have locations North, South, and East. We want to be in your neighborhood; we want Thinkery camps to be close to you!
Q: What fun surprises can you share with us?
Charles: We are going to have a lot of fantastic field trips, special performers and community partners. Plus, we’re going to showcase some of our amazing Thinkery Staff.
Kate: Design, Explore, Move activities allow us to challenge campers in all the different ways that they learn. Whether that’s through independent exploration, based on specific instructions, or through physical movement, we are going to meet their needs.
Q: Tell us about the new shirts campers will be getting this year?
Kate: We are going to be working with Bibliographia, a local women-owned company in Austin. They are going to be coming in and teaching campers how to screen print their own camp t-shirts. Each camp theme will have its own design. SO … if you go to all seven camps this summer you will collect all seven t-shirts!
Q: Are there scholarships available for campers?
Charles: We are going to have more scholarships available than ever before. Campers can apply online; we have three scholarship levels from 95 %, 75%, and 55% covered tuition. Using the three levels of scholarships, we are hoping to give away more scholarships this year and meet more families’ needs.