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Full STEAM Ahead:

Getting Kids Excited about Science, Technology, Engineering and the Arts

Glen Tripp, Founder and CEO, Galileo Learning

For 12 years, Galileo Learning has operated summer programs that spark kids’ passion for science, technology, engineering and the arts. This summer alone, more than 35,000 San Francisco Bay Area kids will attend our programs at Chabot Space & Science Center, The Tech Museum of Innovation, Camp Galileo and Galileo Summer Quest. Nearly 50 percent of our attendees are girls; 40 percent of our kids also attend sports camps. The point is that it's possible to create STEAM programming that appeals to a broad range of kids. Here’s how:

  • Projects: Whether it's building a rocket based on physics principles or using new coding skills to design a video game, knowledge acquisition becomes relevant and engaging if it's taught in the context of a meaningful project. Instead of testing for facts, test to see whether your rocket flies. If it does, celebrate. If it doesn't, try a new design.
  • Story: Wherever possible, we place our projects in the context of a story. These stories have characters, settings, conflicts and resolutions, and unfold over the course of a week. So it's not just, "Today we're going to learn about potential energy," or even, "Today we're going to make a catapult." It's, "Alert! Our castle is under attack! We need to figure out how to protect it until reinforcements arrive from Florence!" This gets everyone hooked.
  • Integration: Rather than isolate science from other subjects, we integrate disciplines including the arts and outdoor play into our themes, stories and projects. Many kids come to us attracted by the non-science elements, but leave realizing they love to engineer.
  • Innovation: Our mission is to develop innovators who envision and create a better world. Our camps aren't science camps or art camps. They are camps that celebrate how cool it is to create, express yourself and try something new. Young people want to challenge the status quo, so we work with that rebellious energy. As one of our brochures declares, "Stand back, I'm innovating."
  • Community: Teaching is an act of leadership, and leadership requires passion and competence. We hire staff that has both in spades. They find fulfillment in working hard with a group of people on a project that matters. Together with the kids, they create a joy-filled learning community - this is what learning should feel like.

Using these strategies, Galileo camps have become the most attended in the Bay Area. That is to say, the most popular summer program in the Bay Area has STEAM and innovation at its core. And isn't that what we need to accomplish across the country? Not just during the summer, but year round in our museums, after school programs and schools? Let’s look for ways we can bring meaningful projects, engaging stories, integrated learning, innovation cachet and joyful community together in pursuit of this national priority.

Glen Tripp is the founder and CEO of Galileo Learning. He is a frequent public speaker and an impassioned champion of innovation education. Since founding Galileo in 2002, he has brought his vision of innovation for all to 200,000 kids and counting at 38 camps.


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