Among the suave, contemporary trenches of the Westchester Mall, the Microsoft store celebrates its second summer of business after opening up shop last September. Embedded with a genuine sense of community development, unexpected from stores of its kind, the Microsoft store offers an in-house summer camp giving children the ability to learn and adapt to new digital software. The summer camp program runs twice a season for four weeks at a time, catering exclusively to children aged eight to thirteen.
Running Monday to Friday, 10 am – 12 pm, the best part about this digitally active summer camp is the price tag: there isn’t one. In agreement with founder Bill Gates’ ideology of community development, Microsoft stores offer these summer camps for virtually no fee. “It’s great!” says Lorraine Shikapwashya, mother of one of the boys in the program. “Other parents would tell me how they were spending up to $500 a week on some computer camps in the area while this program is free of charge.”
Despite the price, children are given a chance to work very closely with counselors who teach the children the programs and offer assistance along the way. Programs range from digital movie making one week to video game developing the next, switching each week with a mini-graduation held every Friday. The campers, or should I say students, are given “graduation slips” every week that mark their accomplishments—they also act as great refrigerator fodder. But that’s not the only gear the children get, each week the counselors pass out “swag”: t-shirts, water bottles, drawstring bags and, yes, Microsoft discounts.
While the camp may end at the culmination of the four weeks, the fun doesn’t have to. The camp’s focus is to inspire children to continue to create and expand their ideas using the programs they offer. The programs they use in-store are available at home so campers can continue the practice of developing games, movies, art, stories, or, well, anything. With an on-site staff that is passionate about helping your child become actively involved, I’d say it’s a camp worth attending. Hurry though, as while this camp is free, it’s limited by space to only 20 children a week and operates on a “first come, first serve” basis.
In a world with undeniable and increasing electronic dependence, it might be a good idea to send your child to summer camp where they’ll learn skills that’ll put them ahead of that curve. And if you’re looking for a more “traditional” camp experience, hey, just send them to baseball camp the week after.