Summer camp is a rite of passage for many young people, a ritual that marks a certain coming of age. For many of us, summer camp is synonymous with rustic cabins in the woods, hiking and canoeing, making friendship bracelets, writing "homesick" letters to family and singing songs around the campfire.
For more than 30 years, Exploration Summer Programs--operated by Exploration School, Inc., a not-for-profit education organization based in Norwood, Massachusetts--has provided a more unusual experience for young people from around the world to challenge themselves, to discover the world of people and ideas, and to experience the joy of learning. During those three-plus decades, Exploration Summer Programs has taken an approach to learning that allows students to investigate subjects they are not likely to encounter in school. It takes a different approach to teaching, too, where participants are always moving, designing projects and challenging each other.
Dive In, Dig Deeper
But last year, it gave its summer camps an entirely new look when it introduced its Focus Programs. These two-week residential programs--five to choose from--give students entering 6th through 10th grade an opportunity to dive in, dig deeper and explore one special interest over the course of the 14 days.
Focus Program choices include Emergency Medicine and Veterinary Science for students entering 6th and 7th grade, and Sports Medicine and Orthopedics; Culinary Arts; and TV and Moving Industry for students entering 8th through 10th grade.
"The idea behind these Focus Programs is to give kids a hands-on feel for certain industries," says Christian Housh, director of communications for Exploration Summer Programs. "In the case of the Emergency Medicine Program, participants get to see and experience all the different areas of emergency medicine, everything from doctors and nurses to lab technicians to EMS providers. It's all encompassing, and students even receive Red Cross first aid and CPR certification. It's an eye-opening experience, particularly for this age group when they're so impressionable."
But the Emergency Medicine Focus Program is about more than just learning what happens in the field of emergency medicine. It's about doing, stresses Housh. The program emphasizes real-world applications. Students don't sit through hours of lectures. Instead, they learn by doing.
The list of hands-on opportunities rivals that of medical students, he notes. Participants learn how to suture wounds and defibrillate patients in cardiac arrest. They inspect x-rays for fractures and learn how to treat infections. They do dissections so they can actually see different arteries and veins rather than just identifying them in diagrams. They evaluate CAT scans and MRIs. They conduct a differential diagnosis of a real ER case. They tour a working ambulance and a Boston MedFlight helicopter.
An additional benefit of the program is the ability to interact with medical professionals one-on-one. Student participants are treated as budding professionals, not just summer campers. And they look like doctors, too, since they dress in scrubs for the sessions. Workshops are led by a range of medical professionals, including ER doctors, certified EMTs and primary care physicians. Participants can interview EMS personnel and meet with ER doctors. "Everyone who works with the students is so good about interacting with them," Housh says. "They respect them as peers. It's really a very empowering experience for the students."
Exploration Summer Program leaders of the Emergency Medicine Focus Program also work closely with Boston-area facilities, including Brigham and Women's Hospital, a nationally acclaimed Harvard University teaching hospital. At its STRATUS Center, a state-of-the-art medical training facility, students can conduct medical simulations using computer-controlled patient simulation systems. They can engage in a variety of case scenarios, from patient resuscitations to treating victims at the scene of an accident.