Arts + Culture

It’s All About Saving Lives – Exploration Summer Programs

By  | 


At the Exploration Emergency Medicine Focus Program, students do more than learn about becoming doctors – they operate shoulder-to-shoulder with surgeons

Since when have 11-year-old kids spent the summer learning how to suture wounds and defibrillate patients in cardiac arrest? Since the world of summer camp moved beyond canoeing and friendship bracelets. Learning to save people in crisis is what 11- and 12-year-olds do when they attend the Exploration Emergency Medicine Focus Program outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

When asked if starting to study medicine at this young an age is a good thing or if it’s simply a manifestation of parental dreams run amuck, Moira Kelly, Exploration Summer Program’s Executive Director, says, “In this case, it’s definitely a good thing. We’re working with bright kids who are genuinely curious about what’s involved in practicing emergency medicine. They want to explore in ways they can’t do at home or at school. They have a lot of fun at the program.”

One thing that makes Exploration’s focus program unique is the emphasis placed on real-world applications. Students are treated as budding professionals. They aren’t sitting through hours of lectures. Instead, it’s learning by doing. Students inspect x-rays for fractures, learn how to treat infections, and become CPR and First Aid certified. They go inside a working ambulance, a Medflight helicopter, and a state-of-the-art medical simulation center, where they are challenged to use lifesaving skills, introduce IVs, and intubate patients when CPR is not sufficient.

“I think that in the age group that we’re talking about, the idea of doing things is much more important than hearing about things,” Kathleen Wittels, MD, Clinical Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School. “I think you can hear about something, but when you actually get to put your hands on and actually do it, there’s a different level of (1) understanding, and (2) excitement about it.”

Dr. Christian Arbelaez, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said, “One of the other parts of this was really getting them to feel like they were doctors. So we wanted them to get scrubs, just like other doctors do. And even the cases that they ran, I kept referring to them as, ‘Okay, Doctor, what are you going to do next?’ So, really living the whole experience and really making it come alive.”

Founded in 1976, “Explo” is a series of residential and day academic summer enrichment programs far different from a traditional summer camp. Students entering grades 4 through 12 participate in fun and exciting projects in the visual and performing arts, science, politics, government, business, technology and more. It’s run on the campuses of Wellesley College, Yale University, and St. Mark’s School in Southborough, MA.

Students come to Explo from New England, across the United States and from 60 countries, including Brazil, China, India, Israel, Nigeria and Russia. The year-round staff works closely with professionals throughout the year, carefully mapping out the summer’s plans, goals, and curriculum so that each student’s summer experience is as fun, educational, and inspiring as possible.

About Exploration Summer Programs

Exploration Summer Program (