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NIU summer camps offer a fun and enriching experience for elementary through high school students

February 27, 2019

Can you imagine having a full week to live the life of an artist, engineer or writer? A jazz musician, physicist, actor or athlete? That’s what happens at NIU summer camps, where campers get a chance to immerse themselves in the field of their choice, developing their skills and passion while experiencing life on a college campus.

With over 65 residential and day camps for students entering grades two through 12, young people are sure to find something to spark their interest. The summer camps can help to nurture that spark into deeper relationships, knowledge and skills, preparing students for college and engaging them in lifelong learning.

Take, for example, the high school STEM career explorations camps where students can learn about careers in computer science, health sciences, engineering, video game design and other science and technology fields through hands-on projects and meetings with professionals.

Summer campers in esports boot camp learn to play competitive video games and learn about careers in esports.

STEM Camp Director Jeremy Benson is excited to introduce a new aerospace careers track this year for high school campers and a new middle school camp, “From the Moon to Mars, and Beyond!” Both camps celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing by exploring the technology, ingenuity and career paths that make space flight and exploration possible.

“I have literally been waiting for this summer for years!” says Benson. “I hope that our new camps will capture the imaginations of students and inspire one of them to be the first person to leave their footprints on Mars.”

The perennially popular visual art, music and theater camps from the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts offer a similar opportunity for students to develop their skills while connecting with other campers who share their passion for the arts. 

“Visual arts camp is where kids do studio classes,” says Kristin Sherman, camp coordinator for the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “They live the life of an artist, and they get so much out of it. They take their art home, and they apply to colleges using the art they’ve produced over the summer.”

The theater, jazz and percussion campers also get a chance to put their art into practice as they workshop their technique with NIU faculty members and create a show to perform for family and friends at the end of the week.

“The feedback we get on all of our camps is really incredible,” Sherman says. “Many campers tell us they’re coming back for their sixth or seventh year. They love it dearly.”

Campers in film, creative writing and speech camps are also known to return year after year.

“The creative writing and film camps we offer have had an excellent reputation over the years for really engaging students to the point where they want to stay at camp longer and are not ready to go home at the end of the week,” says Mark Pietrowski, director of NIU Continuing and Professional Education. “It’s not uncommon for campers to repeat the camps year after year.”

Pietrowski is looking forward to introducing a middle school version of the high school film and creative writing camps this year, as well as to launching a reconfigured speech camp with a new director, Matt DuPuis, a forensics coaching specialist at NIU.

“Campers will get hands-on experience from experts in their fields, and will learn about career paths and college pathways they could take to continue to enhance their skills in those areas,” says Pietrowski. “They will also build friendships during the week that could last a lifetime.”

In addition to high school camps, NIU offers dozens of residential camps for middle school students, as well as day camps to engage and educate elementary and middle school campers. These include a range of video game design camps created by the NIU Digital Convergence Lab.

Becky Griffith, camp coordinator for the Digital Convergence Lab, is excited to teach computer coding to young people in an accessible format that nonetheless prepares them for the coding used in real-world applications.

“We will be adding Sphero to our camps this year!” she says. “Sphero is a programmable robot that you can code with block coding and JavaScript. Sphero will be taught together with GameMaker so that campers can create different types of games in real life and on the computer. Campers will be able to see what it takes to create games and have fun while learning real-world coding practices.”

STEM summer campers learn to program robots.

NIU STEM Camps are also pleased to begin a new partnership with the DeKalb Park District, which will offer pre- and post-camp care to extend the camp day as early as 7:30 a.m. and as late as 4:30 p.m. to accommodate working parents. Campers entering grades two through five will be able to take advantage of this new service while exploring STEM themes such as “Nature and Animals,” “Colors and Sounds,” and “STEM Superheroes.”

For a full list of NIU summer camps, including athletic camps, visit Registration is now open for most camps, and some discounts are available for early bird registration, children of NIU employees or families registering multiple children. A limited number of scholarships are also available.

With additional questions, contact Sara Finnigan at 815-753-1272 or [email protected].