Girl building a robot

Toronto’s next generation of day camps are shaping innovators and entrepreneurs

Camps for children in Toronto have always been abundant, from theatre and dance to all manner of sports. In the last decade, however, there’s been a noteworthy expansion in the types of skills and activities on offer. Whether it’s learning about money through entrepreneurial initiatives, exploring code or creating robots, the latest wave of local STEM camps are helping kids forge their futures as creative thinkers and leaders. 

Explorer Hop, located on Mt. Pleasant Ave. just north of Davisville Ave., offers an array of programs for the next generation of thought leaders. Director Hasina Lookman says the mission of the programs offered is to inspire and create change makers. 

Take the Robotics program that uses LEGO blocks to help teach kids the mechanics of building a robot, for example. In a program like this, “Kids go from passive learners – following instructions – to actively creating mechanisms,” explains Lookman. “They are no longer consumers of coding but producers of coding.”

In addition to Robotics, the Young Entrepreneur program provides foundational tools required to launch a startup. Young people learn about starting a business, acquiring capital, and how to sell products through an online store and a pop-up market. Campers need to consider budget, goals, strategy, and target customers.

“You can’t be a change maker if you don’t bring other people up with you,” Lookman contends. One group of kids, aged 12-13, launched a bakery where they bought their own ingredients and baked all the goods. They made a profit of $850.00 and then donated $450.00 to a charity of their choice. 

Other STEM day camps offering similar programs are MakerKids, with two locations, one in Bloor West Village and Leaside, whose initiative empowers “kids to be creators, and not just consumers.” They offer programs in Robotics, Coding and Minecraft, and, like Explorer Hop, these programs help to build confidence.  

These types of programs are not only fun and engaging for children but they encourage kids to think critically about the logistics of their creation, whether it be a robot, drone, or starting their own business.