As school breaks for the summer, sunny days are calling students to kick back, relax, and enjoy the nice weather. Along with all that fun in the sun, many students and their families look forward to summer camps as a way to have fun and boost learning over the summer months. While this summer could look very different due to social distancing, research shows that high-quality summer learning programs improve students’ math and reading skills and build critical social emotional skills according to the National Summer Learning Association.
As camps across the country explore ways to deliver high-quality programs that pack in a ton of educational fun, we caught up with Jake Weisberg, Founder of Circuit-Lab , and Circuit Lab program instructor, Chris Berry.
Circuit Lab is an after-school and summer program for elementary and middle school students that focuses on electronics and coding for kids programs. Before starting Circuit-Labs, Jake was an educator who worked with a range of programs that focus on STEM education for kids. His experience with these STEM camps led him to observe a few challenges:
1) The intense focus on competition instead of collaboration.
2) A lack of electronics and STEM education for kids.
Jake saw this as an opportunity to bring STEM education for kids to elementary and middle school students through after-school programs and summer camps. Jake founded Circuit Lab to give students hands-on experience building with electronics and creating tech that they can take home and be proud of.
Circuit Lab programs blend technical concepts with hands-on experimentation in a creative, collaborative environment. The STEM camp leverages an assortment of cool tech learning tools, including Splats, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi. Summer programs are designed for groups of 20 students in grades K-8 and over the course of a summer, Circuit Lab serves more than 1,000 students.
Over the last year, Jake and the Circuit Lab team expanded their offerings to include camps for learning robotics and coding for kids. They offer several curricula, and the Splats are used primarily in the "All About Robotics" curriculum. When Jake heard about Splats, he thought combination of coding for kids and play would make it a great addition to the STEM camp. In this interactive class, students in grades 2-5 create learn to code Splats to create their own games and then play them!
“Using Splats gets the kids moving around and the quick programming enables them to see the result of what they designed right away. It’s tricky to find projects that incentivize troubleshooting. In most cases, if a project doesn’t work right away kids look for outside help, but with Splats they have a nice extra incentive to troubleshoot how to make it work and figure it out themselves," said Jake.
When Circuit Lab brought in Splats as part of their STEM camp, it was an instant hit with students.
"Kids were really excited when we brought in Splats. Especially when I told them they would be able to program them and that they would be able to be physical with them. They were buzzing with ideas for games they wanted to create."
Although many of the students in the Circuit Lab camps have some prior experience with block coding, this is the first time they get to interact with their code physically.
Typically students start coding Splats with a pre-built game in the app, like a relay race or whack-a-mole, and start to modify the colors, sounds, or timer. Once they are comfortable with modifying games, they start to build rules for their own. Learning to code active games builds confidence, problem solving, and critical thinking skills which then applies to other STEM camp experiences.
“Students always work in groups so when they get stuck, I encourage them to think back to what they did when they encountered a challenge with Splats to help work through it and get back on track,” said Jake.
Using Splats, students innovate on the fly and invent the rules to their own games. In one instance, students created a pong style game using two Splats. They programmed the Splats to change color between red and green when it was their turn to pass the "ball" to the other player. They then added a random timer so the players would have to stay on their toes to make sure they could press the Splats as soon as the color changed, because if they took too long they would lose the game.
This summer Circuit Lab is focused on offering a number of summer learning opportunities across greater Boston. Some will be in-person, and some will be online, with new online adaptations of their regular offerings. The in-person classes are reduced to 10 students per group. Check out their website for details on what STEM camps are near you.
This summer, think about what kids enjoy and look for opportunities to build their interest. Explore ways to bring a little unruliness to learning, whether in an in-person summer program or a virtual one. If you’re looking for an active and fun way to introduce coding for kids, Splats offer a great way to engage online or in-person. Parents and teachers alike can create meaningful learning opportunities with the right preparation. Ready to get started? As you set up your summer learning program, consider these tips:
It’s an exciting time to plan a meaningful summer learning program. Share your experience with us at on twitter with the hashtag #WeAreUnruly or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions for amazing summer learning experiences!