Campus News

Popular Science Camps for K-12 Students Mark 20th Anniversary

The 20th anniversary season of the popular summer science camp program at Hope College will feature more than 50 week-long camps for approximately 900 K-12 students between mid-June and the end of July.

Camp offerings are available for students entering kindergarten through 12th grade in the fall.  The camps are organized by age group, and feature themes ranging from “Tykes Lego” to “Tinker(Bell) Engineering” to “Movie Making” to “EV Lego Mindstorms” to “Experimental Design.”  Each runs for a week in the morning or afternoon.

“We’re excited to again be offering a broad range of camps for children of nearly every age,” said Susan Ipri Brown, director of ExploreHope, which manages the science camp program.  “The children are always enthusiastic, which makes working with them a real treat.  And we look forward to providing fun enrichment activities with not only a STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] focus, but some art and music camps as well, hoping to get kids excited about science and learning.  And maybe even inspire them to continue to take math and science courses in school.”

Registration is on-going, and families interested in more information or in registering a participant may find the complete schedule online at hope.edu.explore.  Ipri Brown noted that registration is strong and the camps do reach capacity, so registrants are encouraged to sign up soon.  Prices for the camps vary, but most are $135.

The program started 20 years ago with a dream of a scientist to share his excitement for science with a younger generation. In 1997, Tod Gugino, long-time chemistry department lab manager, began running summer science programs. About 25-30 elementary-school students participated in a single chemistry-themed camp at Hope, with two Hope science students helping out that year.

Word spread and over the years the camps gradually grew in both number and scope. This summer’s 50-plus camps and 900 participants will be led by 20 staff members.  Across the history of the program, a total of 194 different camps have been developed, attended by nearly 12,000 participants.  Approximately 150 Hope students have been employed as camp staff.  The fun has also come full circle, as some members of this year’s camp staff were campers as kids.

The camps are now named in honor of Gugino, who died in 2013.  As part of ExploreHope, they are also now among several outreach programs at Hope that have a K-12 focus in science, mathematics and engineering.

ExploreHope is a self-funded program at Hope that manages not only the Summer Science Camp program but also Saturday outreach programs during the academic year and programs with local schools.  Partnerships with local Girl Scout and Boy Scout councils, local high schools and the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute have sponsored engineering and science merit badge days along with an air-quality monitoring program for middle and high school students.

ExploreHope aims to include a diverse population of participants that reflect the community at large regardless of financial or logistical barriers to participation. Recent grant awards are sponsoring programs this summer for underserved middle school students in the Step Up program to participate in a two-week camp program. Additionally, all Holland Public Schools seventh graders are invited to a unique week-long camp in conjunction with their new STEM classes in the district.

To celebrate the science camps’ 20th anniversary, ExploreHope and the college’s Office of Alumni and Family Engagement are sponsoring a crowdfunding effort to support the powerful experiential learning opportunities the camps also provide to Hope students.  More information is available through hope.edu/explore.

“Each summer, nearly 20 pre-professional students receive valuable training through camp employment,” Ipri Brown said.  “Teamwork, communication skills, organization, program planning and delivery, technical writing and classroom management are just some of the powerful experiences that the students gain. Such experiential learning opportunities are a hallmark of Hope College’s new Strategic Plan.”

“ExploreHope only succeeds through partnerships with innovative organizations,” she said.  “Our success is built on the support of other Hope units along with the coordination of generous community partners.”