A four-day STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Camp held at North Clinton Elementary School in May had its share of breath-taking moments.
“One student created a necklace for her mom in the hopes she would be reminded to choose the love of her kids over decisions that could be harmful,” said Jennifer Tyrell, ORAU section manager for K-12 programs. “It was heart-breaking, but it’s a real problem in that child’s life.”
On the camp’s final day, students imagined and created solutions for school bullying and student homelessness.
The camp was a partnership between ORAU and Clinton City Schools. Fifty participants from all three of the district’s elementary schools attended the camp at no cost. Organizers held the camp at North Clinton Elementary School, where there is a higher number of impoverished students who are at higher risk for learning loss when they are away from the classroom during the summer months.
“This gives them an enriching environment for the summer time,” said Emily Butterfield, ORAU master teacher who led the class with two teachers from Clinton City Schools. “There is less learning loss, and we give them experiences that they normally wouldn’t have access to.”
Over four days, students focused on creative thinking and problem solving, along with 3-D printing, coding and robotics. Students worked primarily with “unplugged” tools, like cardboard, paper tubes, glue, pipe cleaners, fabric and other craft supplies to create solutions to problems.
On the final day, students created solutions to problems in their personal lives, their school or their community. Butterfield and her team helped students formulate their problems and create their solutions, which were displayed during an open house for parents and community leaders at the end of the day.
Some of the solutions were simple, like the teams who created drum kits out of objects like egg cartons, Styrofoam plates and boxes. Others focused on pet needs, like a machine that dispenses measured amounts of food and water when the device is approached by a pet.
Then there were the more serious issues. One team created a long-lasting night light as part of a comfort kit for students who are homeless and living on the streets. Another created a stress reduction kit that included a stress ball-like device made from kitchen sponges and fabric, along with a pillow and a list of tips for reducing stress. Another team created a guidebook for helping end bullying in their school.“These are issues that are very real to these students, so they have a personal interest in finding solutions to these problems,” Tyrell said. “Looking at what they’ve done, these students definitely learned a lot this week.”