This post is brought to you by DigiPen Academy and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.
This time of the year has always been one filled with excitement over the things that summer brings. We’ve always anticipated vacations with loved ones, hanging out at the pool, and memories created at camp with friends new and old until this year.
The many things our kids looked forward to this summer are falling like dominoes.
Coronavirus related safety concerns have wreaked havoc on summer plans. We’re left wondering what to do as we supervise the end of online school, try to work, and hold down the fort at home. Finding the right online summer camp feels like just one more thing we parents need to do in this ever-shifting landscape.
7 Tips for Finding the Right Online Summer Camp
Finding the right online summer camp that is age appropriate for your child, appeals to their interests, features skilled instructors, and hopefully teaches them something new can feel hard. Here are some tips for what to look for as you start to look for online summer programs.
Look for Age Appropriate Experiences
One of the trickiest parts of vetting online camps and classes is knowing whether they’re truly age appropriate. As a teacher and parent, I’m always looking for programs that are tailored specifically for elementary, middle, and high school students. I examine content and the way instruction is offered.
We know from online learning experiences this school year that virtual instruction for each age group has to be different. Younger children tend to have more limited attention spans and do better with programs that limit their time online while older kids can flourish in an online teaching environment.
DigiPen Academy recognizes the need for differentiated content and instruction for various age groups. Their online summer programs offer elementary, middle, and high school students the opportunity to access over 40 engaging courses from wherever they are.
Options like Workshops, Studio Classes, and Masterclasses allow different ages to further their knowledge in a familiar topic or to branch out and try something new.
Here’s a look at DigiPen Academy’s offerings and overview of how online summer instruction occurs for elementary, middle, and high schoolers:
- Art Explorer Club (best for ages 6-8, classes are 1.5 hours/day for one week) – Offerings include Art Around the World and Exploring Art Fundamentals.
- Workshops (best for ages 9-18, classes are 2-3 hours/day for two weeks) – Online Workshops are taught using live online class meetings facilitated by an instructor using an online web conferencing tool, WebEx. Students attend the online classes using Zoom, where they hear and see the instructor’s computer desktop in real-time. Through workshops, elementary ages can explore “STEAM”-based topics such as: Junior Digital Game Studio, Junior Programming Fundamentals, Junior Art Fundamentals, Junior art of Manga, Junior 2D Digital Animation
- Studios (best for ages 11-18, 3 hours/day for two weeks) – Studios include individualized art and programming project-based learning for those students with prior experience and skills. Studio programs include video game development, programming and software engineering, digital art and animation, and music and sound design.
- Masterclasses (best for ages 11-18, 6 hours/day for two weeks) – Featuring teachers with extensive industry experience, DigiPen Academy’s masterclasses include Animation with Jazno Francoeur and Film Scoring with James Borchers.
- Pre-College (best for ages 16-18, 7 hours/day for four weeks) – Older students can experience the college side of DigiPen with faculty level instructors who teach pre-college computer science, art & animation, music and sound design, and game design. High schoolers receive a transcript and are eligible for tuition credit to DigiPen Institute of Technology.
Search for Offerings That Match Your Child’s Interests
Like most kids, our kids’ summer plans have fallen apart while others are tentative. Summer Plan A has been obliterated. I’ve been on the hunt for engaging and enriching programming that can fill time during June, July, and August.
Like his peers, Thomas (my almost 14-year-old high school freshman) loves playing video games. A computer science class in middle school introduced the challenge of coding and he loves hands-on projects.
Time between online classes is spent watching how-to instructional videos on YouTube then heading to our basement workshop to make them himself. He’s a Life rank in Scouts who also really loves 3D printing, the great outdoors, and music.
Involve Your Child in the Process
What we want for our kids isn’t always what they want. Sometimes they don’t have a choice but when it comes to spending time and money on summer camp, tweens and teens deserve to be involved in the decision.
After acknowledging his disappointment about camps being cancelled, I offered him the chance to look at DigiPen Academy. I told him I thought their online programs were ones he might be interested in. I let him browse on his own. I didn’t put pressure on him but was curious about what his thoughts were.
Consider Scheduling and Materials
After scrolling the page to get an overview of the courses, Thomas clicked on some options including Music and Sound Design Studio.
He read the description and noticed that it was offered four times during the summer. The 4 sessions alternate between morning (9-12 pm PST / Noon-3 pm EST) and afternoon (2-5 pm PST / 5-8 pm EST) times.
He noticed that the tuition includes a MIDI Controller (DigiPen program fees include all materials!) and asked me to look over the prerequisites and technical requirements.
I appreciate that DigiPen provides all course materials in the tuition price, so we don’t have to order on our own and wait nervously for items to arrive as the first day approaches.
The morning and afternoon start times also provide for more convenient scheduling options. If you live elsewhere than on the West Coast, note that start times are in Pacific Standard time.
Learn About Instructor Qualifications
Knowing who is teaching our child online is just as important as knowing who they’re interacting with in person. DigiPen Academy requires its teachers to be experienced and its preferred they have K-12 teaching experience. DigiPen spends two weeks training instructors to work in an online environment and makes sure they have the needed skills for the courses they are assigned.
Lead teachers for all DigiPen programs possess extensive knowledge in computer science, art and animation, game design, engineering, or music and sound design.
I reached out to DigiPen to know more about their teachers and learned instructors for the Art Explorers Club, Workshops, and studios are, or were, DigiPen Institute of Technology students. Studio courses are taught by industry professionals. For example, Jazno worked at Disney and James is a professional composer and sound artist. Pre-college courses are taught by faculty level instructors. These instructors are usually current DigiPen instructors, work in the college R&D department, or are considered the same level as someone in their faculty.
Make Sure There’s a Way to Contact the Program to Learn More
Navigating online camp offerings is hard since we’ve never been faced with this task before. I love that DigiPen offers families a lot of help and support to find a program that’s just right for your child.
Families who need program advice or have questions about how the programs are taught can join live weekly information session for parents. Program information sessions are held every other Saturday at 1 pm EST and every other Thursday at 4 pm EST. View the schedule of Preview Days and register here.
You can also learn more about DigiPen Academy summer programs by visiting their website, Facebook page, Instagram, or YouTube channel. Staff can also be contacted by phone (425-629-5007) or reached via email.
DigiPen Academy Discount and Giveaway
DigiPen Academy is providing one free workshop to a randomly selected reader. To enter, use the Rafflecopter form below.