“Science in elementary schools is often put to the back burner because reading and math are a focus, but I love sharing opportunities for teachers to see their children, all of their children, be successful,” says Faye Harp, the assistant principal of Heritage Elementary school in Liberty Township, Ohio. Faye, who runs her school’s STEAM Lab, participated in Maker Camp this year for the first time. It’s safe to say that it was an opportunity for success.

“The experience that our students have with Maker Camp does a couple of things,” Faye says. “Making and tinkering levels the playing field. Students who might not have a gift in reading or math can have creative sides that might not otherwise come alive in the science classroom.”

Faye’s Heritage Elementary was just one of some 700 affiliates that signed up to formally participate with us in the great leveling science experience known as Maker Camp this past summer.

One of the things that Faye likes about Maker Camp are the resonant lessons that the projects offer.

“I love the thinking that it starts for all kids and how those experiences transcend outside the classroom,” she says. “It’s that opportunity to create, to produce something that might need a revision — and hopefully does need one because failure teaches resiliency — that touches all the realms that we want to nurture across all core curriculum.”

Many of our affiliates qualified to receive Maker Camp Kits filled with materials that helped groups build projects. This year’s kits were provided as a result of  funds donated by AT&T through their signature philanthropic initiative focused on student success, AT&T Aspire. We’re grateful for the support as, to date, Maker Camp has touched the lives over 1 million young makers.

Faye’s group did qualify and received help from all of our sponsors. Moreover, she took an interesting approach to positioning Maker Camp at her school. Many affiliates are informal groups who gather at homes, libraries, community centers, scouting troops. Faye’s STEAM lab serves 500 students from second to sixth grade each week. That’s a large group to cover, so she turned it into an ad hoc Maker Camp experience.

First Faye offered her teachers a backgrounder on the Maker Movement in general and Maker Camp specifically using materials found on the makercamp.com site and in our outreach. Then she let her students choose their own projects.

“I want people to pick their mode of comfort,” Faye says. The third graders tackled seed bombs; the fourth graders made their own Makeys; the fifth and sixth graders chose among all of the projects. “The only thing we didn’t do were the LED lights,” she says.

Why not? There simply wasn’t time.

Campers from the Pakistan Science Club work on popsicle scissor lifts.

Campers from the Pakistan Science Club work on popsicle scissor lifts.

The beauty of Maker Camp is that it lives online and is always accessible. This year, we were delighted to see groups in Palestine, Argentina, Pakistan, and Brazil sharing their projects with the community that gathers around Maker Camp’s Google+ page. There, camp directors can swap ideas and problem solve and camp participants can post pictures and videos and see the work done by kids just like them who live halfway around the world from their own homes.

But Maker Camp also happened in real life this summer. Members of the Make: staff went to a Maker Camp gathering in Oakland, CA, with AT&T employees who volunteered to mentor kids who are interested in making.

Maker Camp took to the field at AT&T Park in San Francisco this summer, too. At Shape: An AT&T Tech Expo, kids and parents participated in a sold-out Maker Camp Live activity. Make: staff was on-hand to help with a project that was enjoyed by hundreds of eager Maker Campers.

New this year, we were fortunate to have a chance to really check in with Maker Camp directors and get a sense of the experiences that they, like Faye, have had with the project. We talked to a camp leader in Texas, a nervous newbie, a returning leader ready to expand her program, and an emerging New Jersey program that looks likely to stick.

Back on the phone from Ohio, Faye Harp enthuses, “We’re doing STEAM on a shoestring! Without a budget to fund the STEAM Lab, it was wonderful to find lessons that we can implement and allow us to do what we want to do, which is to educate students.

Implementing Maker Camp this year has launched a wave of excitement and enthusiasm about the endless possibilities and benefits related to making for students and teachers,” she says.

“The professional development and lessons provided by Make: made it all possible. We are off and running!”

How does hearing that make us feel? Plain old proud.

Enjoy this year’s projects on the Maker Camp website. Earlier years’ projects are captured on video and can be found on our YouTube channel.

Have a Maker Camp story you’d like to share? Post it on the community’s Google+ page!

Maker Camp 2016