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Thinking About Summer Camps

Now that the new year has arrived, it is time to start looking forward to the summer and computer camps.

Last year, I ran my first computer camp for twenty-two middle school students. I ran a week-long camp, with a mix of HTML, Alice programming, and robotics. It was certainly a learning experience for me. As I look forward to the possibility of another camp this summer, I will be tweaking and modifying what I did last year. For anyone considering offering a camp, there are plenty of great resources online to help you. A great place to start is Georgia Tech's website at:

http://coweb.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/1091

One big decision I have to make for the upcoming year is whether to push for a girls-only camp this time around. Last year, when I approached my principal about offering a summer camp, he was delighted at the prospect. It was a win-win for the school; summer camps help to advertise our school in the community, summer camps encourage young people interested in STEM to learn more about it and our school in the process; summer camps offer employment for our high school students. However, when I really tried to advocate for a girls-only camp, he backed off his initial receptiveness to the idea. Since it was my first year offering a camp, I relinquished control and went with a co-ed camp.

While I consider the week a success, I do wonder how the eight girls who attended my camp would have performed if it had been a girls-only camp. I definitely witnessed apprehension and timidity on the girls' part in some situations with a group of rather noisy, rambunctious middle school boys. I tried to gear the week towards girls by using Alice and emphasizing storytelling. The robotics and HTML sessions had art components built in. I even used pink and purple in my flyers to attract girls. I do know the camp would have been a different experience had it been a girls-only camp. However, would it necessarily have been better for the girls, or just different? Is it worth the effort to fight for a girls-only camp this year or is it better to just ensure girls who attend get a good experience and learn something about computer science? Is there a benefit to the girls interacting with the boys?

I would be interested to hear what others think about the girls-only dilemma. There has been much research on the topic and people usually have strong opinions on it. What has been your experience with summer camps, both co-ed and single sex?

Karen Lang
CSTA Board of Directors

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