Extracurricular Summer Camp?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kids ran free during a camping trip in Central Park. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

KJ Dell'Antonia, editor and lead writer of the Motherlode blog for The New York Times, talks about the pressure on parents to design curricula for their children in coding and other subjects and to send kids to a summer camp for those extra skills.


KJ Dell'Antonia

Comments [26]

Steven Fink from Purchase, NY

I own SummerTech Computer Camp and I don't disagree that putting kids in front of a computer all day is a good thing which is why we don't. I have been involved in computer camps for 20 years and have been disillusioned with the typical model you find in the small and chain technology camps around the country. My vision, which is currently thriving at our camp, is to combine a traditional summer camp model with a strong technology focus. To do this we've evolved by growing our staff from within. All of our counselor/teachers are former campers who have gone through our leadership program starting at 15 years old when they get their first taste of being on staff. From this point they develop lesson plans, create electives, and learn by assisting our senior teachers who are all currently in college. While we know our curriculum is top notch it's our social scene that we focus on. Our staff know exactly what it's like to walk into our camp for the first time and we immediately seize the opportunity to make sure that everyone feels, welcome, comfortable, and most importantly, cool. Self-expression is everything here. We're not a camp of classes. We're an immersive conversation where all around you is coding, animation, 3D modeling, filmmaking, and web design. We spend more than three hours of our day outside playing sports and moving around campus. It's very important for our kids to be off the computer.
It's taken 14 years to achieve what we have and I'd like to see more technology camps offer the kind of growth opportunities that we do for our campers.

Jul. 11 2014 09:39 AM
LK from California

I just got back from taking my kids to tech camp this AM where they are learning coding. They both asked to attend this year. This is my younger son's 3rd year at this camp. This is my older son's first time in 6 years he did not attend math camp. Instead he asked to attend this camp to learn coding.

They are only attending this camp because they want to! I would never have paid the camp tuition otherwise. This is what summer should be about, their choices and this is their choice!

Jul. 10 2014 03:15 PM

Let kids play in the summer & get lots of exercise.

Exercise helps them concentrate during the school year. Despite their weather the Finns schedule 2 or more short recreation breaks during the class day.

We need more recess & exercise, lots of intramural or general exercise w/inter-school competitive team sports as an option.

Possible benefit - fewer ADD/HD diagnoses, fewer instances of classifying children "unmanageable" in class.

Problem solving by teaching coding alone is not learning person to person teamwork, problem solving & how to compromise to meet a common goal.

Jul. 10 2014 01:18 PM

Academic learning (including coding) and playing are not mutually exclusive. First off we, as parents, should not be perpetuating the idea that these are separate endeavors. Learning can be fun. Second of all, There's plenty of time for kids to spend time on both pursuits in a day. They don't have to spend the better part of the day coding...or canoeing.

I don't understand why so many people, such as Sue from Maplewood, NJ make this out to be an all or nothing pursuit. I would also add that literally letting kids play all summer is setting them up for a false expectations of what summertime means, which will only set them up for disappointment later in life.

I've been providing a summertime academic curriculum to my kids (now 7 and 10) for years now, and I formalized it last year. This is in addition to camp, which is mostly outdoor activities. So far it has been working great:

Jul. 10 2014 01:16 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

I took my first computer programming course as a high school sophomore in 1973. I knew I had a facility for it. I PURPOSEFULLY avoided being a comp sci major in college. I opted for a degrees in philosophy and political economy instead. I saw no reason to pay my tuition to Rutgers (then a paltry $585 per semester) to get a degree in a field that industry was going to train me for any way.

Some coding? Sure. With the idea that it is a lifelong skill? I doubt it. The way we interface with machines is changing and will likely change two or three more times between now and when they enter the workforce. Far more fruitful is to learn how to think logically...completely...creatively. That will see them through their entire life.

Jul. 10 2014 10:52 AM

The US military is concerned that way too many of new enlistees have environmental deficit disorders (EDD). Apparently the new soldiers are 'couch potatoes' and sometimes frightened and inept about outdoor physical activities. They can play virtual war games just fine, but they cannot deal with the real world.

Jul. 10 2014 10:51 AM

Thank you, computer teacher caller!!

Jul. 10 2014 10:48 AM

Mass murderers seem to have in common: no history of play.
See On Being from a couple of weeks ago.

Jul. 10 2014 10:48 AM

Yeah... just what we need, more mindless coding cogs for the tech mill.


Jul. 10 2014 10:47 AM
Nick from UWS

Bravo to this caller. Bravo.

Jul. 10 2014 10:47 AM

It is a great MISCONCEPTION to conflate using a computer the way the average kid (and person) does---surfing the internet ("staring at a screen")---and programming. You wouldn't send your kid to a camp where he watches TV all day, but you would send him to one where he writes and films TV shows. Think of it like that.

Jul. 10 2014 10:47 AM
john from office

URRGHHGHGGHGH, kids need to have a facebook account, a Tumbler account a tweeter account, URGH what happens when the next "big Thing" comes along.

also what happens when the lights go out and we have a blackout?? No Screens!!

Jul. 10 2014 10:47 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

When I was young and a camper - and even in school - what was stressed was participating in as many different activities as possible. Children don't understand how interconnected everything in the world is, and they will never make that connection if they don't get a well-rounded education, and that includes camp. Even if they are very computer literate, coding itself is merely the means to an end, but they will never understand the "end" if they don't get a complete education.

Jul. 10 2014 10:46 AM
Clif from Manhattan

Let's not trivialize coding. To be a great coder you have to understand A LOT of other stuff. Larger concepts that are beyond coding. In fact, the code itself is the expression of the understanding of the concepts. So the focus should also be on learning concepts. Coding involves understanding math, physics, and much more.

Jul. 10 2014 10:45 AM
Susan Burger from Upper West Side

Oh good grief. My son always went to summer camp and had fun. Real fun. Play time. He has done sailing camp and cooking camp when he graduated from the regular camps. He's now in Bronx Science and does great.

Kids have so little play time now and it is needed to stimulate their imaginations which then leads to better science. They also hardly have recess anymore. They need some physical activity and since that is limited during the school year - at least summer offers an opportunity to get physical.

And as someone who did Fortran coding on cards as a female when no females did coding - you don't need to spend your summer learning coding to be a perfectly fine coder.

Jul. 10 2014 10:45 AM
a person who codes from NYC

How about a BOOK!
Give your kid the gift of imagination.
Being a great coder depends a lot on the ability to think, books promote thinkage.

Jul. 10 2014 10:42 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Torturing the majority of children by forcing them into computer programming or into a math camp or even a Shakespeare camp in the summer time is cruel and unusual punishment. Some will benefit but the majority will come away hating coding or math or Shakespeare if they are forced to imbibe. That is what school is for, not summer time.

Jul. 10 2014 10:41 AM
Nick from UWS

For Christ's sake. LET KIDS PLAY DURING THE SUMMER. Let them do nothing. Let them look at clouds. Let them dream...make things up. STOP PUSHING KIDS TO BE COGS IN THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL GOOGLE APPLE WHEEL.

Jul. 10 2014 10:41 AM
m from manhattan

sounds like the first steps toward enslaving children; or teaching children how to act grownup, and think about their future earning potential, in lieu of just being and acting young.

Jul. 10 2014 10:40 AM
antonio from Bayside

It would be useful as any other myopic topic. If a kid wants to go to a camp hosted by 'melissa clarke' for baking great. Coding is important, but the KID HAS TO BE INTO IT. Simple.

Jul. 10 2014 10:39 AM

You would never discuss whether it benefits your child to send him to basketball camp or to baseball camp; yet we do this all the time. Why is it such a big deal to send a child to a camp that teaches him an intellectual skill?

Jul. 10 2014 10:39 AM

@randy (Randy) - what's with the lower case diminishment of self? Apparently you can use Capital lettering when you choose to - why not use proper grammar in reference to yourself? Are you teaching this grammatical self diminishment to children?

Jul. 10 2014 10:37 AM
Sue from Maplewood, NJ

I'm a computer teacher... it's summer time! The one thing kids NEVER get to do in school is play. Please let them play during the summer! Coding is a fantastic activity-- kids learn creative problem solving from it in addition preparing for a career (15 years before they need to). But playing outside gives them social skills they don't get from a screen. Turn off all the screens. Take away their phones. Please give your kids unstructured time to just hang out. Let them do hobbies that they never have time for otherwise. They need to learn what to do with unstructured time!

Jul. 10 2014 10:37 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

For most kids, canoeing is better than coding. Any kid who is interested in programming a computer can learn on his or her own. Most homes have at least one computer to try it on. But how many kids have access to a lake and a canoe? Let them canoe and leave the coding for those who think they would be interested in it.

Jul. 10 2014 10:32 AM

Pressure on parents?????????? How about the kids? How about just letting your children play without pressure?

Jul. 10 2014 10:30 AM
randy from Brooklyn

i'd like to offer up a great company that offers introductory coding courses with a 1-on-1 mentoring component, Thinkful. i am a mentor for Thinkful and a year into it, i still remain impressed at how much a newbie can learn given 3 months and a weekly half-hour video chat.

Jul. 10 2014 10:30 AM

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