A Summer Camp Leader? As a Co-op?

This past summer, I completed a work term with Engineering for Kids as a STEM Camp Lead Instructor.

To give you a bit of background, I’m a third-year student pursuing a combined major in the Faculty of Science.

I usually get two types of comments when I tell people about my co-op.

  1. STEM Camp Lead? That sounds SO cool. What did you get to do?
  2. Oh… So you couldn’t find a real co-op? Can’t anyone teach kids?

And sometimes, I get the ultimate combination with either both comments or the first comment with a side of pity.

I get it. It’s not the job that comes to mind when people think of a co-op, especially not for someone in the sciences.

So why did I choose this co-op? Because I love teaching & learning, and with this job, I was able to improve on both of those skills. I also had experience working with children beforehand, so this position was perfect for me.

A picture with paper airplanes, because no summer camp would be complete without them.

What did I do during my work term?

I co-led a STEM-based summer camp with two other instructors; we also had a volunteer to help us during some weeks. All of us had either earned or were currently working on Bachelor’s degrees (from UVic) in various STEM subjects ranging from Psychology to Computer Science.

A Lego Mindstorms bot is essentially old-school Lego blocks that meet new-school tech.

Aside from typical summer camp things like crafts, and playing games outdoors and indoors (to avoid the heat), we introduced kids to the basics of the different engineering disciplines through lessons, activities, and crafts.

We also had the opportunity to learn about and teach kids with different educational toys like Ozobots, Spheros, and Lego Mindstorms.

All of these are robots that are coded using different mediums. Spheros and Lego Mindstorms use devices but Ozobots follow lines and hand-drawn codes.

We spent a few weeks playing MinecraftEDU (the educational version of Minecraft). This game can be used to teach kids about design and basic electricity and circuits, plus it’s really engaging. I had never played Minecraft before this summer, but by the end of the first week of Minecraft camp, I was just as hooked as the kids were.

Overall, it was cool to see how much STEM education for children has changed since I was a kid (and I’m not even that old).

Did I learn about anything as I would’ve with a real co-op?

Yes, I did. There was never a day of camp where I didn’t learn something new. I learned about communication, social responsibility, and continuous learning, which are part of UVic Co-op and Career’s core competencies. While I didn’t gain in-lab or field experience, I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for the world because I learned skills that can be applied anywhere.

But anyone can teach kids.

Yes, but probably not very well. Can I? Not as well as I’d eventually like to, but teaching kids is an art form that I’ll likely never be able to perfect.

To anyone considering doing a co-op term in the future, there are plenty of different ways to gain hands-on experience while in the program, and not all of them have to be “conventional.” Choose something that suits you.

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