Highlights from our 2016 Summer Camps: Student-driven learning, updated curriculum, and new locations


This summer saw a lot of changes, including a new age-differentiated curriculum that introduced young children to 21st Century Life Skills and prodded older children to learn more about the skills and how they apply to their lives. With the help of educational specialists in the spring, we also changed the order of the skills we taught so that they followed a progression better suited to childhood development. We started by having children think about self-awareness and then move on to learning about ways to interact with others. Daily self-reflection using a variety of media – writing, drawing, and online – helped children ponder and cement their learning. These practices led to many Aha! moments, innovative ideas, and improved learning techniques. Outdoor education and connecting with the environment was again an important part of our camps, and children spent lots of time outside doing experiments and observing their environment.

Special thanks go to our friends at Heritage Fellowship Church for hosting our Reston camps. Throughout the summer we were fortunate to have several Guest Speakers join us to help broaden children’s perspectives of engineering, food science, kitchen design, and making your ideas come to life.

Science Magic Highlights
We ran three Science Magic Summer Camps! They were in Reston, Falls Church, and Alexandria.  In each location children had lots of fun playing with chemistry, biology, and physics to make things fly, explode, and grow!  We are very proud to have partnered with the Falls Church Parks and Recreation and Baroody Camps to offer the new camps in our new locations. Children ended each camp by becoming “Wizards” and putting on a Magic Show. Students learned a lot about their Identity and Personal Strengths and ways to self-regulate and self-motivate. New this year was a progression on having a Growth Mindset and formally thinking outside-of-the-box. They also learned how to better understand and collaborate with a group. We also introduced new “tech” lessons to the curriculum, with students learning about the “magic” behind coding and electronics. Our final Magic Show in Reston was an interactive feast – adults in the audience participated and learned as much as the kids – and it was completely student-driven.
Falls Church Science Magic 2016 photo album
Falls Church Science Magic 2016 Smilebox slideshow
Alexandria Science Magic 2016 photo album
Alexandria Science Magic 2016 Smilebox slideshow
Reston Science Magic 2016 photo album
Reston Science Magic 2016 Smilebox slideshow
Parents had a lot to say about these camps:

–  [They] have both really enjoyed Science Magic camp. Thanks for your parent updates and photos. I’m looking forward to the show today!
– My boys have been having a wonderful time — thank you! I know that he enjoyed the kinetic sand and calming activities earlier in the week.
– I can tell you that he definitely listens to the concepts you are teaching, because he was talking about them quite a bit yesterday and this morning.
– The kids are both really enjoying the week!
– [About sharing observations and student reflections]: This is very good feedback; thank you for expending this much effort and sharing with us; very useful to me.
– My daughter very much enjoyed her week at Science Magic camp…. It was very interested how you asked her to think about how she learns.
– The opportunity to participate gave him confidence. He also enjoyed all the tinkering with materials and liqids to make all his experiment ideas come to life.
– My kids really enjoyed the hands-on learning. I appreciated that the instructors were prepared, fun and fully engaged which made it a great camp.

Innovation Lab Highlights
We ran two Innovation Labs this year, one in Falls Church and one in Reston. In both two-week camps, children came up with real-world, viable ideas for inventions that will help others. We focused heavily on Empathy and Human-Centric Design in these camps, and also expanded on having a Growth Mindset as children created brand-new inventions. These two camps also featured our new emphasis on empathetic uses of modern technologies, with children building inventions with working electronics and making apps that make life better. Children also had plenty of fun using physics, gravity, and materials science to build creations! One student actually took his idea from camp, modified it upon learning about a real-world problem, and got feedback from a National Wildlife Refuge!

Falls Church Innovation Lab 2016 photo album
Falls Church Innovation Lab 2016 Smilebox slideshow
Reston Innovation Lab 2016 photo album
Reston Innovation Lab 2016 Smilebox slideshow

We made quite an impact on the lives of our campers:
– My daughter loved this camp. She came home full of ideas, and particularly appreciated that camp offered a safe, supportive environment in which to share her ideas. She loved the process of coming up with a problem and how to solve in collaboratively. We will definitely look for another camp by Innovation Lab next summer!
– The final presentation that they organized on the last day of the camp truly makes kids shine and it was priceless to see how proud my son was for his project. This camp offers a unique experience – it is not just fun and science but it is a great space for a child’s imagination and aspirations to bloom. I think that the belief that my son’s imagination can go beyond a craft room and can offer something meaningful to the real world create a true intrinsic motivation for further learning in the life. Wish schools would borrow motivational ideas from iSchool. Thank you for helping our children to dream!
– “I learned that I can make new ideas.”


Kitchen Chemistry Highlights
 Our Kitchen Chemistry Camp in Reston used an experimental process – we allowed students to direct their own learning by choosing how they wanted to end the camp.  The camp culminated with the Grand Opening of our student-created restaurant, Beach Side Bistro! It was amazing to see this fully collaborative, creative, and student-driven idea come to life. Students learned and immediately internalized many 21st Century Life Skills as they worked together to make their restaurant a success. On opening day, after placing finishing touches and holding a “soft opening,” students welcomed Guests to their well-planned and beach-themed restaurant with many creative recipes on the menu. Each student had a role to play – from host to chef to waitress – and everyone (including guests) had a lot of fun! Allowing students the freedom and flexibility to be entrepreneurs was a very successful model that we will repeat in coming programs!
Reston Kitchen Chemistry 2016 photo album
Reston Kitchen Chemistry 2016 Smilebox slideshow
Read this raving review:
– My daughter attended 2 weeks of Innovation Lab and 1 week of Kitchen Chemistry this summer. Out of all the other camps she had attended, by far these 3 weeks were her favorites! Small class sizes, customized approach to tailor to each child’s needs, learning life skills through science and technology make these camps truly unique! I loved the individualized attention that kids receive in the camp! My daughter enjoyed learning about self-regulations, perseverance, confidence, team work and other essential like skills while having fun through science! Everyday she was looking forward to going to camp! I loved that older kids were also coaching the younger kids, and how patiently the instructors kept the kids engaged and helped them learn! I was amazed by all the customized presentations that kids came up with at the end of the camp, which truly exemplified the camp’s motto of letting out their inner genius!

Around the World Highlights
 Our Amazing Race Around the World camp in Reston resulted in the creation of new Micronations that were based off a foundation of Empathy. Featuring an expanded Micronation Challenge curriculum, students learned in depth about why countries form, how governments help their citizens, and how they as individuals have a role in the world. Students also gave their parents pretty big “hints” about places they would like to visit during a final show that featured a variety of computer-based presentations. This camp stressed empathy and appreciation for others, and this helped students collaborate and be creative in new and astounding ways!
Reston Around the World 2016 photo album
Reston Around the World 2016 Smilebox slideshow