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Never before have online summer schools and virtual classrooms been of the utmost importance. At a time when traditional camps, schools, and social activities have been shut down due to COVID-19, digital schools and camps are just about the only way to keep kids safe, entertained, and stimulated.
Once it became apparent that traditional summer activities would not take place this year, loads of websites rallied to fill the void. Some websites operate year-round and put together a specific summer program, while others were formed specifically to deal with the challenges faced by parents and children this year.
Here's a look at the top 10 virtual classrooms and summer camps:
When it comes to choosing which summer program is right for you and your child, make sure to assess your child’s areas of interest, read reviews, talk with customer support if necessary, and make sure it fits your budget. Fortunately, there are lots of free classes and camps available, but there are also paid ones that offer greater structure and more comprehensive programs.
Focus: Treasure Hunt
Brain Chase is a virtual summer camp for kids in grades 2-8 that takes them on a massive online treasure hunt. Participants need to call upon all their savvy in reading, writing, math, and languages so they can unlock clues, complete challenges, and find the missing $1000 golden nugget. Participation cost starts at $99.
Focus: STEM Learning
iD Tech is one of the biggest names in STEM learning for kids, and this year, it has enlarged its offering of virtual summer courses. Courses include Python, Java, Minecraft, Roblox, Unity, Adobe, 3D modeling, and more, and are suitable for ages 7-19. The structure includes 5 consecutive days of courses with a maximum of 5 kids per instructor. The cost per week starts at $399 and discounts are available for 5 and 10-week passes.
Focus: Creative Learning
Year-round, Varsity Tutors offers state-of-the-art tutoring for kids of all ages, on all topics. In the summer, the website offers free week-long sessions on creative topics, including coding, creative writing, painting, theater, video game design, and more. Camps are designed for children ages 5-18 and they can sign up for one or as many as they like. Camps run from June through August.
Focus: Creative, Tech
Activity Hero has a huge selection of online classes and summer camps for children of all ages. Classes cover topics like yoga, math, music, drawing, origami, and more. Many of these classes are free! Summer camp topics include STEM, writing, entrepreneurship, statistics, AI, art, chess, and so much more. Some classes are free and camps start at $100. ActivityHero also has an app for easy access.
Focus: Creative Projects
Maker Camp was launched in 2012 and is designed to get kids involved in making. Making what? Anything and everything. Projects range from flying paper puppets to fairy wings to homemade ice cream. Maker Camp is perfect for kids who love doing hands-on projects and deriving satisfaction from their creations. Projects come in the form of DIY instructions and videos. Kids can even submit their own creations. Participation is free, though Maker Kits, which come with materials, are available for purchase.
Focus: Health, Empathy
Hometown Stomping Ground is a sleepaway camp based in Saratoga, NY that seeks to build “empathetic communities through humble curiosity, personal responsibility, restorative practices, and unbounded creativity.” Since the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19, camp leaders launched a virtual camp that mimics the traditional camp as best as possible. It’s free for everyone, participants just need to register and then choose which options they want to participate in. Participation takes place via Zoom and all sessions are led by experienced counselors.
Focus: Reading, Math, Science
Parents love CampPBS as one of the foremost producers of educational children’s television and content. Today, PBS is offering a summer camp that strives to induce in children a love of reading, math, science, and different cultures. The camp is free and goes according to your schedule. Whenever you want, you can read an article, get your child started on an educational game, work on a project together, or do some math-based cooking.
For parents who are looking for a serious summer school structure, Time4Learning is an affordable, effective option. The website is designed for homeschooling parents and includes a yearly curriculum, but for the summer, its classes are designed to be especially fun, creative, and out-of-the-box. Parents select their child’s (or children’s) grade level, then choose from over 3,500 multimedia lessons and online courses. The payment structure is in the form of a monthly subscription that starts at $19.95/month for Pre-K to grade 8, and goes to $30/month for grades 9-12. Subscription can be canceled at any time.
Why not check out our list of the best homeschool programs?
Focus: Summer School
Outschool is a self-described “community marketplace of online classes for kids” and its goal is to inspire children to love learning. Toward this end, it offers year-round classes via video chat, so students can connect with peers who share their interests and explore topics outside of a traditional school setting. Outschool’s summer camp program features 15,000+ choices for children ages 3-18. Classes speak to various interests, such as Potions (Harry Potter Themed Chemistry), Power Pony Readers, Pokemon Writing, and tons more.
Focus: STEAM Learning
Digital Dragon offers a summer school program for middle schoolers and high schoolers, along with a summer camp for kids ages 8-12. Classes at Digital Dragon focus on teaching kids STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) skills, including practical exploration of digital design, programming, video game design, and more. Teamwork is a big part of Digital Dragon, and participants of classes and the camp are encouraged to work together to achieve their goals. Camp sessions and middle school summer school start at $250 per course, while high school courses are mostly $600.
As you can see from the list above, there are many high-quality summer learning opportunities available. The question is, which one is best for your child? If your children are older, why not give them a choice of a few pre-approved ideas and let them decide? If your children are younger, you can look for a site that’s age-appropriate, deals with topics they enjoy, and fits your budget. If you’re on the fence about which program to sign up for, start with one that’s free or that offers a free trial. That way, you have nothing to risk as your child explores whether that site is right for them.