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Spc. Steven Bennett and campers during Peach State STARBASE summer camp (via Wikimedia Commons)

As the countdown to year-end is winding down, the number of gift-buying guides are ramping up. As with recent years, technology headlines a majority of suggested-gift lists, from Rolling Stone to Business Insider. Even Popular Mechanics has released a gift list this year, although it favors electronic-free gadgets.

But have you considered adding a science class or two to your shopping list? As parents may know, now is the time to start shopping for that coveted seat in the coolest summer camps focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Not only do these programs help keep young scientists intellectually stimulated during school breaks; they can spark future career paths as well. To help identify just the right camp for your loved one, we’ve compiled some tips on sources below.

Universities often offer STEM camps all summer long:

  • Eberly College of Science holds summer camps geared towards youth of all ages that cover a variety of topics ranging from ecology of the common backyard to kinesiology and forensic science. 
  • iD Tech provides a listing of technology camps, divided into four categories, being hosted at various university campuses for youth aged 7 to 19 years old. 

Local museums and science centers are a great resource for fun and educational activities:

  • New York Botanical Garden organizes various programs and summer camps for elementary aged children to delve into the botany through learning about the familiar garden plants as well as the more exotic residents of forests and wetlands.
  • Kids Science Labs operates classes and both half day and full day summer camps for children aged 4 to 14 years old where participants can attend courses such as “Modern Marvels,” “Med School 105” and “Engineering University.”

International and local science organizations may be the most knowledgeable about programs being operated in your area:

  • Youth Ambassadors sponsors a number of educational conferences throughout the year that are open to youth from around Asia. In addition to topical, workshop-type conferences, Youth Ambassadors hosts summer camps on math, engineering, science and leadership skills.    
  • International Movement for Leisure Activities in Science and Technology (MILSET) provides information on international summer camps geared towards older participants, aged about 14 to 22 years old depending on the camp, who can engage in lab experiments, work with artificial intelligence, or learn about space. This organization also has information on the emerging Science Tourism trend, where the entire family can engage in scientific learning while on vacation.  
  • Summer Schools in Europe is an entire website devoted to helping students find educational programs in Europe. While some of the programs are available for high school students, the majority of the courses are geared towards students at the university level.

OSA offers “summer” programs as well! The graduate student in your life may love the gift of attending this year's Siegman International School on Lasers.