BY OLIVIA DORFMAN
Summer camp is about having fun and making friends, and Girls Inc. summer camps are all that—and more. Unlike traditional day camps, the camaraderie and crafts at these camps are infused with academic enrichment, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). “It’s like making a cake and getting the carrots in,” explains Girls Inc. Director Amy Stark. “From the girls’ perspective, it’s just a great summer.”
Starting in March, girls in Monroe, Owen, and Greene counties signed up for specific weeks or for the full summer program. There’s a theme for each week, such as “Be a STEMinist,” “Happy, Healthy HER,” or “She’s Out of This World.” Hands-on activities are designed to incorporate scientific concepts. For example, cooking classes explore how crops are grown as well as the chemistry of cooking. Computer activities include games but teach coding while reinforcing math and logic skills. Various careers in STEM, and women working in those fields, are highlighted.
Local Girls Inc. program staff develop the activities with input from the nonprofit’s national research center, and focus on approaches proven successful for girls. “We make failure a part of learning, because research shows that girls handle failure differently than boys,” Stark says.
Science-rich field trips include visits to places like McCormick’s Creek State Park, the Indianapolis Zoo, and WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology. Twice a week, campers swim at city pools. Campers read for 45 minutes every day. A healthy breakfast and snacks are also provided.
All of these activities embody the program’s three goals for girls: to be strong and healthy, smart and educated, and bold and independent “We’re keeping them engaged with experiences that will stick,” Stark says.
“Stimulating educational activities bridge the school year over the summer,” says Mona Clay, camp program director. “But first and foremost we’re a community that supports and empowers girls to be their best.”
Camper Makayla King, 9, clearly gets it. “We don’t have to be tortured with math, but we still have math involved in everything, like with measurements,” she says. “We did cool chemical reactions. We got to engineer with candy and toothpicks. We’re learning things and reading, so we won’t be behind our level by the time school starts again.”