A DOer learning video game development and narrative flow in The DoSeum's New Summer Master Camps. Credit: Courtesy of The DoSeum

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Maybe it’s the elaborate LEGO creations dominating floor and table space throughout the house. The intense study of favorite YouTube channels. The seemingly never-ending conversations about Fortnite during car rides, at meal times, in your dreams (kidding … sort of).

Regardless of the specifics, clear passion for technology is emerging in your child. As you carefully research summer camp options, consider signing them up for a DoSeum Master Camp. This summer, The DoSeum will be offering five week-long Master Camp sessions – two for ages 6-8 and three for ages 8-11 – for kids interested in taking a deep dive into a specific advanced technology.

In “3D Digital Designers” campers will first learn to use three open-license 3D modeling software: 3D Slash, MagicaVoxel, and Tinkercad. They will then be taught to prepare their models for printing using the slicing software Cura before working alongside DoSeum educators to print their designs on our 3D printer. In addition to taking home this original design, campers will receive vouchers for return trips to make additional 3D designs in our DoSeum maker lab.

The two “Game On!” camp sessions will find campers learning to make their own video games from scratch using the game-creation software Stencyl. Camp sessions will cover all the basics of video game design, with special emphasis on not only programming but also narrative flow and art direction. By the end of the week, budding developers will have games ready to publish. In addition to specific game design skills, each camper will receive his or her own Stencyl license, allowing the learning and making to extend beyond the week-long camp session.

With costs starting at $750 per session for members, these camps come with a higher price tag than normal DoSeum offerings. Though this might give caregivers pause, these prices are in line with comparable camps in the San Antonio area and reflect the enhanced level of sophistication in the camp content, said Richard Kissel, The DoSeum’s vice president of education. As DoSeum educators were developing camp content, Kissel said, “We were thinking a lot about how we want our learners to view the world around them. We want them to be producers in addition to being consumers. All our camps have defined objectives, and Master Camp participants will leave with specific, advanced technology-driven skillsets that will empower them to deepen their interest and expertise in these fields. Campers will be guided by experienced, passionate educators. For example, one of our lead camp developers, Clint Taylor, has a master’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a rich background in technology and maker-centered learning.”

Researchers are beginning to document a fascinating connection between early-life exposure to STEM subjects and the later decision to pursue STEM-related careers. In their 2010 International Journal of Science Education paper, authors Maltese and Tai found a majority of the newly graduated doctoral scientists they spoke with reported their earliest interest in science began before middle school. Kissel is a prime example. Growing up in rural western Pennsylvania, his interest in nature and prehistory was first sparked by locally found fossils. Regular trips to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History turned interest into passion and a life-long career in the sciences and informal education.

Before you decry the fact that your 5-year-old doesn’t know Python yet, know that DoSeum staff believe with all of our STEM- (and arts and literacy) shaped hearts that kids still need time to be kids. Even “Master Campers.” So while these camps will include a higher level of structured activity time than other camps, there will still be plenty of time for splashing, running, and general usage of outside voices. As we seek to raise the next generation of digital citizens, DoSeum staff want our camps to model the balance between screen time and “fresh air time” we want for our own children.

As Kissel notes, “We are always looking through the lens of joyful learning. These camps are about allowing kids to stretch as far as their imaginations will take them.”

To learn more about The DoSeum’s Master Camps, click here.

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Katie Sirakos

Katie Sirakos is the founder and owner of Spark Storytelling, a grant writing and strategy consultancy serving nonprofits in the San Antonio area. She may be reached at katie@sparkthestory.com.