Springtime has marked the end of winter, renewal, rebirth.
For many years, spring has also signed the arrival of local fifth-graders to a Space Camp day camp. From Monday through Thursday, parents drop kids off in the mornings; they go through normal Camp activities–simulators, history lessons, mission training, etc.–and go home in the afternoon. On Friday, they graduate.
The price provided to the schools has for quite some time been $250. That’s certainly a bargain for kids, especially considering that Space Camp’s tuition price has been over $1,000 inflation-adjusted dollars since the earliest days of Space Camp. As the program omits any evening activities, some things undoubtedly get cut, but the fifth grade program has generally been considered a ‘full’ Space Camp program.
This year sees changes to this longstanding program for local kids. The simulated space mission: gone. The price: double. $500. And apparently, there is no place to hold a graduation ceremony, so there won’t be one.
Space Camp’s busy season is obviously the summer, but the fifth-grade program allows Space Camp to train new counselors ahead of summer and generate revenue while their core clientele around the country are still in school. This program has generated quite a lot in revenue over the years, reaching well into the six figures at each participating school. In return, kids all over the Huntsville area get to experience Space Camp, especially those who might not otherwise be able to afford to do so.
Whereas $250 was a steal, $500 is still a good deal, even if a doubling in price might be hard to swallow. Schools that need to fundraise to afford the program are going to have a real problem here. But without the mission…and no graduation?
Is it really Space Camp? Is it really worth the trouble?
Back in the early 2000s, Space Camp had 3 and 4-day programs where groups of kids could come in large groups and experience some Space Camp simulators and learn about space history.
It was called AstroTrek. And it was the clear position of management at the time that AstroTrek attendees were not Space Camp alumni.
What of these kids?
The changes appear to have come suddenly, as I’m told these changes were so sudden that Hampton Cove Elementary was reportedly not even notified of them until they showed up for camp! Oops!