As summer vacation begins, kids are eagerly looking forward to free time and fun, while parents may be dreading the inevitable summer boredom. Keeping children entertained in the summer months can be challenging, but Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) opportunities through 4-H help avoid the risk of boredom. STEM summer camps and programs can help keep kids learn and have fun all summer long!
Finding local opportunities has never been easier thanks to local 4-H clubs and other organizations that work to bring resources to all counties. In fact, there is a local 4-H club that serves every state and county, so you can find opportunities no matter where you live in the Northeast.
Connecticut is one of only a handful of states that has designated an official state aircraft. Like the Corsair F4U soaring through the sky, Connecticut STEM students are reaching new heights with 4-H programs. The University of Connecticut runs the state 4-H club, and provides a diverse offering of programs: from rocketry, to biotechnology and veterinary science. The annual 4-H Adventures in STEM conference offers kids ages 12-18 workshops in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. The University of Connecticut also provides the Explore Engineering E2 camp on the Storrs campus for high schoolers to practice coding, animation and robotics.
One thing that sets the University of Maine state 4-H extension apart is its focus on phenology, the study of seasonal change and timing. The “Signs of the Seasons” curriculum ties together many different scientific topics, including ecology, environmental science and biology (both plant science and animal behavior). Science Saturdays are another great STEM opportunity in Maine. Science Saturdays are weekend workshops that cover a variety of topics. Recent topics included Equine Anatomy, which educates teens about horse gait, muscle, and bone structure. Another example is Engineer IT!, which explores different fields of engineering, so students can find the one that fits their interest.
As home to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other top-notch STEM schools, Massachusetts boasts many innovations in STEM education. Scratch, an online game and animation website created by MIT, teaches kids basic coding structures and how to solve problems programmatically. The University of Massachusetts runs the Intro to 4-H robotics program and uses Scratch to create coding challenges for its members. Other University of Massachusetts 4-H extension opportunities include the popular Summer of Science camp in which kids stay in the UMass dorms and choose from workshops in four different tracks: food science, movie making, human biology or veterinary science.
New Hampshire is the Granite State, and its STEM programs are rock solid. Science literacy is a top priority at the University of New Hampshire 4-H extension, which challenges kids to use their physics and engineering knowledge to solve fun and complicated challenges. Such challenges include the annual 4-H Mousetrap Car Challenge, where competitors build a model car and power it using only the force from a mousetrap, and the Cardboard Boat Regatta. Engineering opportunities outside of 4-H include LEtGO Your Mind Summer STEM Programs, which are held across the state. The themes for this summer’s programs are Sumo Robots and Build It Big, which includes sessions in EV3 Robots, Minecraft, superstructures, motorized LEGO® cars and stop motion animation.
The Rutgers University 4-H extension in the Garden State takes both STEM and New Jersey’s nickname seriously. During the annual Science of Soil youth summit, students learn about their community’s soil and how it affects the growth of plants and animals. In addition, the Rutgers extension holds Science Saturdays, workshops that cover a variety of science topics from food sciences, to optical science and polar science. High schoolers in the state can attend the Teen Science Café, a program that meets to discuss subjects such as the Science of Love and Heartbreak and Space Exploration. For more information about STEM opportunities in New Jersey, check out the state site’s listing of county offices by program type.
New York’s motto, Excelsior, means ever upward, and the state is taking STEM educational programs to the top. The Cornell University state 4-H extension holds an annual Career Explorations Conference that helps kids explore the possibilities for careers in every sector, including in STEM fields. In addition, Cornell University encourages students to explore careers with animals on its animal careers website, which includes information about potential career paths and tips and resourcing for getting ahead. For children more interested in robots than animals, the state 4-H extension also has programs in aerospace, rocketry, machines, computers and robotics.
For kids interested in domestic animals and livestock, the Pennsylvania State University 4-H extension offers great learning opportunities. The statewide 4-H animal science summer camp has three main tracks: Dairy Science, Equine Science and Livestock Science. The extension also offers projects in other STEM subjects, including computer and web technology, small engines, forestry, and entomology (the science of insects). Non-4-H opportunities include the Drexel University Summer High School Program, in which high schoolers can experience college-level science education classes at the university, discovering topics such as music technology and materials science.
The University of Rhode Island has robust programs in environmental science, alternative energy, engineering, technology and plant and animal science. In addition, Rhode Island 4-H members can interact with other 4-H members from other states. For example, they are invited to cross the border into Massachusetts to find additional programs, events and 4-H camps in their neighboring state.
The University of Vermont 4-H extension may be the only extension in the entire country to provide a “Sheep Camp” to its members. The camp helps teach kids ages 8-18 about the science, management, healthcare and the general nutrition of sheep. In addition to agricultural and livestock science, the Vermont extension also focuses on environmental sciences and holds multiple conservation camps and activities throughout the year.
The Northeastern U.S. has tons of local opportunities for continuing STEM education over the summer. If you don't see your state above, please visit 4-H.org to find local 4-H opportunities by county. You can also find resources at the Institute for Broadening Participation's Pathways to Science website. If you still can't find what you're looking for, you can create your own STEM summer lesson plan. With this list of STEM resources, you can continue your STEM education over the summer from home.