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STEM camps provide learning for students and facilitators

Senior Meredith McMahan works with students at the Science Camp.
Senior Meredith McMahan works with students at the Science Camp.

From exploring the engineering of 3D printing to investigating the science behind making pizza dough from scratch, local school students spent part of their summer learning about the possibilities of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through summer camps.

For some students their adventures took place at the annual Science Camp coordinated through a collaboration between the Office of Academic Outreach and the Science Education Center at Georgia College.

“Georgia College has held this camp for 13 years now,” said Ruth Eilers, director of Academic Outreach. “These students are looking for a hands-on science experience that they may not be able to get during the school year. The camp is centered around a theme which includes experiments and projects that allow them to see science at work.”

Aside from Eilers, camp facilitators also include Georgia College students.

“Science has always been my love, and I really enjoy teaching younger kids,” said Meredith McMahan, senior environmental science major. “Allowing kids to learn in a non-traditional setting like this can spark an interest in science that will last their whole life.”

The science camp takes place during three separate weeks and includes third through ninth graders.

“From my experience with this camp, I’ve learned to appreciate the pre-planning process,” said Jasmine Clay, who received her master’s degree in education from Georgia College in May 2014. “I hope to be a principal one day, so this experience has been sort of a trial run on learning to work with children in a class, developing a program to follow and really being able to build enthusiasm for the subject we are studying.”

This year also marked the first year offering Math Camp at Georgia College. One of the goals for the camp was to show the connections between every day life and math concepts. Graduate student Lydia Ozier says the types of activities she can do with kids in the summer differs from what she can do during the school year, which enables a deeper level of learning.

“Camps that focus on math and science during the summer are so important in that they shine a positive light on what it means to do math and science,” Ozier said. “We were able to do more hands-on experimental activities that teachers rarely have time for in their actual classrooms.”

Georgia College Early College also launched their inaugural STEM Academy for middle and high school students from Baldwin and Putnam counties. Participants investigated the economic issues of alternative energy and the implications of sustainability.

Georgia College students help children learn math concepts at the Math Camp.
Georgia College students help children learn math concepts at the Math Camp..

Middle and high school students also participated in the first Forensics Academy at the Wilkes Building on Central State Hospital’s campus. The academy featured lessons taught by former forensic scientist and laboratory directory at the Drug Enforcement Agency Darrell Davis. Kaolin Endowed Chair and Science Education Center Director Rosalie Richards says STEM opportunities like this are vital for younger students.

“It’s critically important that they are exposed to STEM experiences that are both engaging and increase awareness of possible careers in STEM or related disciplines,” Richards said. “It also gives them an opportunity to interact with professionals in those fields so they can see what STEM could look like for them.”

The summer camp learning environment is not only beneficial the children who gain an understanding of science processes and concepts, but also for the Georgia College students who plan to be teachers themselves one day.

“I’ve learned that all students can do anything and understand the processes if you challenge them,” said McMahan. “It’s been amazing to see the light go on for these students as they find out that learning can be fun.”

 

 

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