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Using NASA Resources at Camps

Written by Christine Shupla, Lunar and Planetary Institute Education

The variety of day, afterschool, and summer camp programs reach broad audiences across the US, including rural audiences and underserved youth. Camp programs routinely feature games, crafts, physical activities, storytelling, and evening programs. Many camps take advantage of an outdoor setting to incorporate exercise and emphasize health. Some camps focus on STEM; some even specialize in topics related to space science. All of these activities are done with the goal of building 21st century learning skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving. These skills, along with others emphasized at camps – such as social skills, independence, self-confidence, identity development, and/or spiritual well being - contribute to career/college readiness and success in life, work, and citizenship.

NASA offers a variety of resources for camp programs, including night sky activities and resources, weather and other Earth science activities, activities related to health in space, and STEM activities that incorporate the 21st century skills that camp programs value. One example is Strange New Planet, with its theme of exploration, and incorporation of observation, communication, and collaboration skills. (There is a NASA Wavelength version as well as an Explore version modified for informal audiences.) Another example is NASA Elementary GLOBE’s What’s Up in the Atmosphere, which also includes observations connecting to a popular camp theme of environmental stewardship.

Activities designed for outdoor use can also be excellent for camps, such as Lunar Phases: A Dance Under the Sun, which models the Moon’s phases using the actual Sun, and Splat! which uses water balloons as a model for impact cratering.

Camps can also take advantage of dark skies to conduct stargazing sessions. Programs may find the Night Sky Network’s Night Sky Planner site useful, and may want to contact nearby members of the Night Sky Network to arrange for a telescope session.

Additional NASA recommendations and resources for camps can be found at the American Camp Association’s blog site, including

· Planetary Events for Camps
· Celebrate the Sun and Moon with Campers
· Solar Celebrations
· Multicultural Eclipse Stories

Happy Camping!