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Camp Galileo: A Camp for Science, Creativity and Fun

Cupertino's Camp Galileo promotes learning in a fun environment

“If we mess up that’s okay! That’s what we’re supposed to do,” belts Camp Director Erin Gonce as she leads an enthusiastic gaggle of 5-year olds in an outdoor game.

At Camp Galileo mistakes and determination are encouraged as kids partake in creative and educational projects.

The camp was founded in 2002 by Glen Tripp in Palo Alto but has since expanded to 33 sites around the Bay. His main goal in creating Camp Galileo was to provide students with an environment that would allow for innovation and creative problem solving.

“In the first nine years of my post-college career I really gained an appreciation for the importance of creative problem solving and collaboration and I simultaneously was exposed to what was happening with the No Child Left Behind legislation," Tripp said. “I saw that schools were having a very hard time building in creative problem solving and visual arts and outdoor collaborative play and hands-on science engineering so I decided to start a camp that would address those under one umbrella.”

Camp Galileo embodies its mission through an educational approach known as the Galileo Innovation Approach, which is meant to allow kids to think in new ways in order to create a better world. 

“[The Galileo Innovation Approach] has two main components,” Tripp said. “The first is a mindset that the culture of the camp reinforces at every turn so those are mindsets like being visionary, being collaborative, being determined, being courageous. Those mindsets are recognized and reinforced throughout the camp experience. The second is a set of steps that a person can use in any kind of creative endeavor and that set of steps starts with identifying a goal, generating ideas, then designing, creating, testing, evaluating, and redesigning. The Galileo Innovation Approach is a combination of a mindset and a process that we equip kids with so they can be creative in their lives.”

Each week at Galileo is built around a different theme, allowing the camp to create a diverse set of projects for each session. The themes for this summer were the Olympics, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Renaissance and music.  

Recently, the kids celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge by exploring San Francisco art and learning about bridge engineering.

There are three age groups at Galileo camps: Nebulas (pre-kindergarteners), Stars (first through second graders), and Supernovas (third through fifth graders). Each age group participates in different art and science projects that relate to the theme of the week.

“We’ve been innovating and building bridges and bridge related projects,” camp counselor Ben Goldman said. “In science we’ve been learning all about tension forces and compression forces and making really awesome bridges that hold pennies and have been holding a lot of weight.”

The camp goes in depth on the scientific concepts related to the projects so that kids are able to obtain knowledge on how these projects correlate to real-life concepts.  

“The first step we did was we just taught them the actual chronology of bridge making so building the towers and the cable to connect them and the ideas of tension and compression and they learned all that vocabulary, all the correct terminology to be able to talk about it in real world terms,” Palo Alto Camp Director Erin Goce said. “Then they got to see how a bridge is made in real life and make their own model of it, build their version of it. So now they’ve created their own bridge after days of learning how to do it the right way.”

Although the Camp Galileo is an educational experience for the campers, it does not sacrifice fun for learning.

 “There is something about building and creating that is inherently fun,” Tripp said. “We select people not just for their teaching expertise but for their passion and enthusiasm and playfulness. The culture of the camp is very supportive of a fun of environment. Nobody goes to a summer camp that is not fun so we put big emphasis on camp games and fun spirited activities that we wrap around the academic experience. It all fits together.”

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