During the same summers I attended Boy Scout camp in Michigan, I would also have my “home camp” at the Museum of Science & Industry (MSI), in Hyde Park.
It really wasn’t camp where you stayed overnight in a tent. But you did have projects to work on, you were within a team and had to work together and you had the run of the museum.
I went to these camps between 1986 & 1988, so up until I started junior high.
The best part was my mother would drop me off (back in the day when MSI was free), and the security guard would let us in for camp before the public. We felt like VIPs.
We started our day in a big open room downstairs and learn about what we would be working on. We wore the traditional camp shirts and then had name tags and then we had “camp counselors” they were college students who led us. Man we had ball, sometimes we had to explore the museum (and this is while it’s open with the public walking about), and we’d be checking stuff out.
The best part was using the labs upstairs, sometimes we would be in small groups of 3-4 and do experiments. I have long been a science nerd and loved that stuff.
The absolute best was packing an egg in a UPS box with shipping material and the camp leader threw the boxes off of the roof of MSI on the south end by the lagoon.
Man you could hear most eggs crack on impact. I remember packing mine like it would go to the moon and it hit that hard ground right off of Lake Shore Drive and I had an omelet in a box.
Every time I drive down Cornell Ave around to 57th Street and see MSI I think about that box flying off the roof and landing in scrambled egg city.
The first year in 1986 we didn’t take a camp picture but the next two years we did. The picture you see is from 1987.
The first year it was only for members of the museum’s children so it was a smaller group and I was attending Paul Revere School in south shore (and living in West Pullman), but the other kids at camp were mostly suburban from much better areas than me. But we all got along and had a great time.
The next year (1987), camp was opened up to more urban kids like me, still great but I was more comfortable because it was more like my school.
The last year I did Space Camp and it was a mix of both member’s kids and also included some foreign kids. I remember being paired up with a kid from Turkey. I mean we couldn’t be more different but he was cool and we had fun. We got to watch an IMAX movie, do space experiments and hang out on the Space side of the museum.
I don’t know if MSI still does those camps, I’m not currently a member (my mother was and also had inside info being a CPS teacher), and I tried looking it up but couldn’t find anything.
It was a great experience to explore a world class museum, be educated on a different level and meet kids I normally wouldn’t meet.
Not to mention when my school took a field trip to MSI the years after I had been to camp I could feel like an expert as well.
The people skills I learned back at those camps and problem finding skills we were shown I still use to this day.
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Filed under: Chicago