A week of science camp equals a month of school-based learning.
Most young people like summer camps and the National Youth Science Foundation (NYSF) has discovered a model that combines the excitement of an outdoor setting with the joy of learning: National Youth Science Camp (NYSC), a tried-and-true opportunity for experiential learning that can be copied by states and school districts anywhere. The NYSC represents an almost painless way to extend the school calendar. In fact, similar programs exist in other disciplines: some environmental camps emphasize principles of biology in multiweek residential programs. At least one former "typical summer camp" in Maine has found new energy, and commercial success, as a music camp -- combining high-quality instruction in major instruments in the morning with recreation and camping activities in the afternoon and evening.
Some education specialists estimate that a week in residential camps is equivalent to a month of traditional school-based learning. NYSF officials point out that if other schools in the United States were to offer one- or two-week science camps as part of an extended academic year, the impact on science learning nationally would be impressive.
Founded in 1963 for West Virginia's centennial celebration, the National Youth Science Camp encourages development of thoughtful scientific leadership. Every summer, it hosts two just-graduated seniors from each state and the District of Columbia for four weeks of intensive study. Funded by the State of West Virginia and corporate and private sponsors, the tuition-free NYSC offers hands-on research, provocative lectures, and a challenging outdoor program. Projects and lectures cover the full range of scientific disciplines and feature prominent scientists talking about their work in basic research and technology, whether at academic, corporate, or government institutions. Art, music, and the humanities complement the science program.
Most days at the NYSC include morning and evening lectures; afternoons feature research, day trips, and seminars organized by scientists, staff members, or delegates. Free time activities range from frisbee to fishing with plenty of athletics. On weekends, students depart on backpacking, rock-climbing, caving, or kayaking trips designed to develop new skills, explore new environments, and have fun with new friends. With the camp located in West Virginia's Highlands, delegates have access to vast natural resources, plus local landmarks such as the Cass Scenic Railroad, and the Greenbrier Hotel. Delegates collaborate with scientists at nearby National Radio Astronomy Observatory, while a three-day trip to Washington, D.C. allows behind-the-scene visits to Goddard Space Flight Center and the Smithsonian Institution.
Alumni surveys show the camp does a lot for budding science leaders and for science; many past participants are practicing scientists who call the NYSC a "formative experience." Best of all, according to National Youth Science Foundation officials, the science camp concept can be modified to accommodate other disciplines and the needs of specific students -- for example, camps can emphasize history or literature or be specially tailored for at-risk students, minority youngsters, young women, or students with disabilities. The Foundation is planning additional science camps for teachers and students and in 1994 adopted the NYSC format for its first 16-day Mountaineer Youth Science Camp for two juniors from each of West Virginia's 55 counties.
For additional information:
National Youth Science Foundation
P.O. Box 3387
Charleston, West Virginia 25333
(304) 347-5390 fax
-- or --
Bill Hilton, Jr.
Office of Program Research
National Youth Science Foundation
P.O. Box 727
York, South Carolina 29745