Kids get a ‘KICK’ out of career exploration camps
You couldn’t have asked for a better summer day at the Kirkwood Community College campus in Cedar Rapids. It was sunny, 80 degrees and filled with young minds ready to learn and explore future careers.
The Kirkwood Interactive Camps for Kids (KICK) offers a variety of hands-on learning opportunities, which have become a summer staple for local youth ages 8 to 15. Since 2006, these camps provide fun and highly energized activities that help develop skills, build friendships and start early career exploration. Over 1,000 students from seven counties are estimated to participate in the camps each year.
“The KICK camps are designed to support learning while having fun,” said Melanie Bouzek, program developer for continuing education and KICK director at Kirkwood Community College. “While at the camps, kids can get exposure to what they like and don’t like in a particular career field.”
The camps for kids are offered in six different Kirkwood-affiliated locations in the Cedar Rapids and Coralville areas. Families can sign their children up for in-person or online camps that can run anywhere from a single session to five days. Popular activities include camps on health care, culinary arts, welding, mock trial, computer science and more.
Eleven-year-old Brenna Winterhof is a huge Roblox fan. Her favorite game is Piggy, which inspired her to check out the three-day KICK camp on designing and coding in Roblox.
“It’s a really fun game, and I wanted to know how to create my own things,” she said
Participants of the Roblox: Makers-Coders-Entrepreneurs camp learn about game design concepts, coding and how to publish games, and by the end of the week, students will produce their own game.
“I wanted to learn coding and have already learned how to code barrels that roll down the hill, which is really cool,” Brenna said.
Each of the camps provide opportunities for kids to learn not only about their specific topic but also develop other soft skills.
“All of these camps provide activities that require teamwork and collaboration,” Bouzek said. “Kids also strengthen skills in following instructions, creating projects and meeting new people.”
The culinary camp, Party Foods and Appetizers, brings several opportunities for youth to work together and get hands-on experience in the kitchen.
While at the camp, 12-year-old Morgan Biderman was looking forward to cooking in a professional setting and learning new skills.
“I love cooking. It’s been fun cooking in an industrial kitchen,” he said. “I’ve liked learning the different cutting techniques for vegetables, too.”
Students of the party foods camp prepare different foods like pico de gallo, guacamole and an apple and onion crostini. The camp covers planning and preparation, knife skills and using an oven and stove. All of the activities in the camp strengthen everyday life skills as well as provide insight into a career in the culinary arts.
“I think the two things I’m thinking of for a full-time profession right now are cooking or computer science,” Morgan said.
The KICK camps provide an important outlet for hands-on career exploration at an early age, which is vital for growing Iowa’s future workforce.
“The camps highlight jobs students can go into as they enter the workforce,” Bouzek said. “They also show what further education and training fields we offer at Kirkwood.”
KICK camp opportunities run through Aug. 4. Families are welcome to register their children for one of the remaining camps this summer.