Robin Hamill, president of the Aspen Education Foundation board of directors, was visiting with a friend in Philadelphia last summer when he first learned about the Digital Media Academy. His friend’s son was taking part in an academy camp at Drexel University.
Hamill hadn’t heard of the academy, but he was intrigued when his friend told him how much his son enjoyed the camp and the content being taught.
“My friend told me he went to pick up his son and one of his friends to take them to a water park, but they didn’t want to leave the camp,” Hamill said. “They were having so much fun at the academy that they didn’t want to take a break and wanted to continue doing the work they were doing.”
Hamill’s friend encouraged him to check out the academy and consider introducing it to Aspen. Hamill was more than excited about what he saw and learned as he toured the camp in Philadelphia.
“I came away realizing what a cutting-edge camp the Digital Media Academy is,” Hamill said. “I approached Dr. John Maloy (the Aspen School District superintendent) and asked if the Digital Media Academy might be something that would complement our curriculum in Aspen.”
Maloy saw the benefit of the program and negotiations began to bring the academy to Aspen. Despite exclusively running their camps at colleges, once the academy representatives learned about all of the summer activities in the Aspen area, they agreed to run the camp at Aspen Middle School, making Aspen the first location to hold a Digital Media Academy camp at a secondary-education facility.
Developed by technology educators from Stanford University, the Digital Media Academy has been featured in The New York Times and now has been named as one of the top 10 summer camps by Worth.com.
Digital Media Academy summer camps and professional computer training offer hands-on experience with cutting-edge digital media and related technology. The Aspen courses will be open to kids ages 8 through 12 in two sessions that run from July 28 to Aug. 1 and from Aug. 4 to Aug. 8.
The basic fee for a one-week camp experience is $890. There are additional costs for lunches and lab fees for certain classes. There is also an option for an extended camp experience that adds three hours of camp time per day.
There will be a total of seven classes offered during this initial kickoff in Aspen that were targeted to the demographic of kids in the valley as well as classes that the academy thought would be the most successful in the first year. A list of the classes being offered in Aspen can be found at www.digitalmediaacademy.org/locations/kids-teens-locations/aspen.
“The kids in Aspen will get to experience some amazing hands-on learning with current technology from some of the best educators,” said Kimberly Fomby, marketing manager for the Digital Media Academy. “This isn’t your average tech camp. People should expect to see some amazing projects from the students. These initial classes are like building blocks. We’ll introduce the students to the fundamentals and build their confidence so they’ll be ready to move on to a more advanced class in the future.”
Bringing in a camp like the Digital Media Academy is a solid fit in the Aspen School District, as adding programming to the current curriculum is a goal for Maloy. The academy offerings also fit into the new curriculum that the district is implementing. Maloy sees programming as a wave of the future, but no formal programming classes currently are offered at the high school.
“We need programming classes at the high school,” Maloy said. “The real challenge will be finding the right people who are qualified to do it. You don’t have a lot of folks in higher education that are looking at degrees in that area. We have a couple math teachers in our district that have programming capabilities. It’s definitely something we’re looking to add at the high school.”
Maloy said adding computer programming and computer science to the high school curriculum will happen in the next year or two. He sees many students moving on to college with a strong interest in learning about programming without getting a lot of experience at the high school level, and he wants that to change.
The robotics program has been very popular in the elementary and middle schools, with a strong emphasis on learning to program the Lego robots the kids build. Maloy said with Aspen Education Foundation dollars, the district has been able to build a very strong robotics program, and now the district needs to meet the needs of those kids as they enter high school.
The Digital Media Academy will be hiring local teachers as facilitators in its classrooms this summer. It should give some of the teachers an opportunity to learn additional skills that could be appropriate to any new programming curriculum that comes to the district.
Hamill said he’s also getting a lot of interest from the Aspen Country Day School parents to have their kids involved with the camp. The camp is open to any student as long as they fit the age requirements.
“This is another great example of the Aspen Education Foundation and the Aspen School District working together to realize the aspirations of our students,” Hamill said. “This is a great example of bringing a world-class opportunity to the kids here in the valley.”
Maloy hopes to see a strong nucleus of young people sign up to create enough energy that will lead to the Digital Media Academy becoming a regular offering in the Aspen area and offer even more classes to a wider range of students in the future.
“This is a wonderful learning opportunity for young people in the summer,” Maloy said. “It’s hands-on, and it’s relevant. It’s not only about what the students are doing today, but it clearly looks to their future. I think this is a great opportunity for young people to get highly involved in something that will generate their creativity. It looks like it’s going to be a very good relationship with Digital Media Academy and hopefully a long-standing relationship.”
“This isn’t your average tech camp. People should expect to see some amazing projects from the students.”
Marketing manager, Digital Media Academy