HELENA — The Montana Learning Center (MLC) at Canyon Ferry has opened registration for their 2021 summer camps and are already gearing up for this year’s campers.
Executive Director Ryan Hanahoe says the pandemic has taught them just how valuable and needed their programs are for kids and families.
“It’s huge. I mean just the social and emotional aspect of it alone is huge,” said Hanahoe. “This year it’s just as important because some kids are going to school one day a week or two days a week.
"Most of them are online and the camps are an important opportunity because they get to be outside spending time with their peers while still being safe.”
In 2020 the Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry reported no COVID cases at their camps. They were also awarded a grant from the state to write a COVID-19 Toolkit for all Montana Summer Camps to use.
For 2021, more than 20 different camps will be offered ranging from dinosaurs to water quality to space camps. They have both overnight and day camps available for students grades 1-12.
Last year, MLC students that participated in their Dinosaur Camp traveled to Carter County where they worked with real paleontologists in unearthing a leviathan fossil find.
MLC is also offering Montana Aerospace Scholars Program for sophomore and junior high school students that pass an online class, with all expenses paid for students that make the grade.
“Everything is sponsored by NASA for that particular camp,” explained Hanahoe. “The kids are talking to astronauts, scientists, engineers, you name it. It’s just a really great opportunity for the kids.”
MLC serves as a regional hub for the annual NASA-sponsored robotics and drone challenges for middle school and high school students.
Top-performing student teams win the opportunity to visit NASA space centers, such as the Johnson Space Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, Kennedy Space Center, Ames Research Center, and Jet Propulsion Lab.
In 2019, MLC took a group of Browning Middle School students to the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab where they got to see the Mars Perseverance Rover when it was being built and see it tested in a simulated martian environment.
“When you build something like this it’s important to build two. One to send to outer space and the other one to test here on the ground so we got to play around with that a lot too. We had a ton of fun,” said Hanahoe.
Hanahoe says making science fun and providing opportunities for the kids is ultimately the point of everything they do at MLC.
“You want the kids to be excited because when they’re excited they’re going to be hooked with science,” said Hanahoe. “And when the kids aren’t learning science they’re either on a pontoon boat, swimming, kayaking, you name it.”
After a year of remote learning during the pandemic, Hanahoe says students deserve to have fun with other kids their age. He also hopes they gain a passion for science at the same time.
The Montana Learning Center is intended for everyone. There are several scholarship opportunities for students based on need, and MLC helps around 30-40 students a year with scholarships.
More information about this year’s summer camps and scholarship opportunities can be found here.