Forget your typical summer camp experiences: swimming, campfires, telling ghost stories.
At computer camps around the country, kids are telling stories about Minecraft. They’re learning to code, not to canoe.
“I thought it was really cool to know how to make an app,” said Aurora, who is spending the week at iD Tech camp at UCLA. “I’m only a kid. I’m 11. You don’t see a lot of kids making apps in the app store that might actually sell. So I thought it would be cool.”
The room at iD Tech — this one on the campus of UCLA — is humming. Kids are enthralled by their computers: clicking, staring, thinking, asking questions, clicking again.
It’s mostly boys. The camp says 15 percent of its 36,000 campers nationwide are girls.
There are rows of students working on computers tucked inside individual cubbies. Bright signs on the wall say “Game”, “Code”, “Tech”, and “Create.”
There’s no threat of poison ivy here. No surprise run-ins with spiders. No chance a water fight will break out.
“When I was younger, I had gone to more traditional camps, where it was all fun, all games,” said 14-year old Gavriel, who is learning 3D modeling and animation. “But I felt like it was time to get more serious about what I want to do for the future.”
More serious about the future…at 14.
The pamphlet for iD Tech camp plays straight into that. It’s there on page one: “Right now there are over 1 million unfilled jobs in STEM.”
The message is that $900-plus for this week-long camp can help prepare a kid for those high-skilled jobs.
“Technology is great. Computers are great. It is going to be a part of our future,” said Peg Smith, head of the American Camp Association. But, she says, you can learn 21st century skills at traditional camps, too. Skills like creativity, communication, collaboration.
“For kids to be able to be outside, in nature, actively involved, in authentic situations with other people, is a real advantage in today’s world.”
The funny thing, said Smith, is that computer camp used to be where kids went to play with exotic devices.
Now, computers are everywhere.
And it’s traditional camp where they experience the exotic: nature.
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