NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Walt Disney’s “Steamboat Willie” movie in 1928 brought Mickey Mouse entertainment to children of the world. Eighty-nine years later, Penn State New Kensington’s “STEAM” camps bring Snapology learning to children of the Alle-Kiski Valley. STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) programming is at the forefront of the campus’ 29th Kids in College summer camp activities.
Snapology, a Pittsburgh-based educational company specializing on melding creative arts and the STEM fields, provides an interactive learning concept that combines play with education using Lego bricks and other materials that snap together. The company stresses hands-on learning and teamwork, a crucial social skill for elementary students.
“We are partnering with Snapology to provide new opportunities for area students to experience state of the art technology programs,” Debbie Novak, coordinator of STEM programs at the campus. “Snapology will provide their most popular LEGO’s classes where students can learn about design concepts while building their favorite characters and games. These classes are a good fit with the STEAM concept.”
This summer, Kids in College offers four Snapology camps — GameBots, Mega Machine Robotics, Animation Studio and Pokemania — that inspire creativity and promote teamwork. The Animation Studio class, designed for students in grades 2 to 5, is an opportunity for young students to emulate Disney as they create and direct their own movies.
The Snapology classes are a part of a variety of summer camps offered to local school district students in grades 1 through 11. STEAM components are integrated into most of the classes. A nationwide effort, STEAM prepares students for a competitive world through a strategy of enhanced education and career development opportunities.
“Creativity is a vital part of education and innovation, and classes in the arts will allow students to express their creativity in a fun environment,” said Novak, who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh. “The arts teach students to interpret information, which is a necessary component in problem solving.”
Overall, the line-up features 34 camps, including an SAT prep course for high school students. For sports enthusiasts, four camps feature the fundamentals of fly fishing, soccer, bowling and other indoor and outdoor activities.
With the exception of Theatre Camp, all Kids in College classes are scheduled in July and are arranged by grade levels. There are five classes for first graders, 13 classes for second and third graders, and 24 classes for fourth graders. Eighteen courses are available for students in grades 5-8, and six courses are geared to youths in grades 9-11.
“We continue to have gifted instructors who provide creative courses that enrich our students in a variety of topics,” Novak said. “The number of courses offered each year has continued to grow in size and material content. Due to the program’s success, we presently have second-generation students attending the camps.”
The most popular program is Theatre Camp, the all-time favorite of the young participants. Director Jimmy Baker, a Penn State alumnus and former campus student, brings an adaptation of “High School Musical Jr.” to Kids in College in June. The camp splits into two sections: grades 2-5 and grades 6-11. The cost is $195 for each section.
For the younger group, the camp runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. June 5-16, followed by rehearsal, 9 a.m. to noon June 19-23 in the campus’ Forum Theatre. The dress rehearsals are set for June 26 and 27 at Valley High School, where Baker brings it all together for a grand finale at 6:30 p.m. on June 28.
The older students’ camp runs from 7-9 p.m. June 5-16, with rehearsal set from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. June 19-23 in the theater. Dress rehearsals are schedule from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 26-27 at Valley, with curtain rising at 6:30 p.m. on June 29.
The bulk of the Kids in College programs run Monday to Thursday, July 10-13 or 17-20. There are morning (9-11:30 a.m.) and afternoon (noon to 2:30 p.m.) sessions each day.
Camp instructors are drawn from the ranks of University faculty and local school teachers. They are assisted by teams of counselors, campus students and local teens.
All activities are conducted at the New Kensington campus. Classes require preregistration, and prices range from $95 to $145 per class.
For more than a quarter of a century, the Office of Continuing Education has offered a variety of academic and sports activities for youngsters. Each year, more than 400 youths participate in the hands-on camps.
“The camp was established to provide students with a fun learning experience, while exposing them to a college campus atmosphere,” Novak said. “Over the past 28 years, we have had more than 8,000 students participate in the program.”
For more information, call 724-334-6010 or visit Kids in College online.