Yelm Community Schools hoped to instill a love of all things science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in its third to eighth grade students when it hosted its first installment of STEMKAMP …
Yelm Community Schools hoped to instill a love of all things science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in its third to eighth grade students when it hosted its first installment of STEMKAMP from Aug. 9-13 at Ridgeline Middle School.
The camp was made possible by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense STEM organization.
“Really, the primary purpose is to help students see themselves in STEM fields,” said Kendall McNutt, director of student learning for Yelm Community Schools. “Hopefully those that really fall in love with it will realize that (STEM) is the path for them, and they’ll be able to take courses and make their post high school plan in a way that supports that.”
The grant was especially geared toward kids with family members in the military, so one of the goals of the program was to ensure that as many of those students were enrolled as possible, but it was open to all students.
At STEMKAMP, the students participated in multiple challenges, particularly in the field of engineering.
In one activity, students built a recycling sorter.
“What they would do is get a basic understanding of why this might be needed and then they would come up with their own designs,” McNutt said. “They would test them, and when they didn’t work, which would happen a lot with that particular one, they would go back to the drawing board. … That was one where we were really proud of the kids because none of them gave up and they had a lot of fun doing it.”
The students also built models of prescribed fire magnesium ball catapults using clay balls.
And then in another activity they participated in an escape room where they had to solve chemistry puzzles.
On Thursday, Aug. 12, the kids participated in a field day.
“We decided, just because of everything, to have a field experience on site, instead of taking them out,” McNutt said.
The students worked with stream tables to understand how rivers move and how sediment affects that, and WET Science Center came out and worked with the kids on water filtration by building and testing different kinds of filters.
The kids also took part in a tower challenge where they tried to build the tallest tower that could support a marshmallow out of spaghetti noodles and tape. They also competed in a paper airplane challenge.
This year’s STEMKAMP marked year one of the three-year grant, but the hope is to create a sustainable path forward to continue the camp long after the funding ends, McNutt said, adding the offering was well-loved by students and parents alike.
“I feel like the best measure of success is how the kids respond, and they were excited to be there and excited to come back,” she said.
District activities like STEMKAMP remove barriers between students and STEM-related careers, McNutt said.
“A lot of times, kids think of science and math as being things that somebody else does,” she said. “But we want them to really see that this is something you can do if you’re passionate about it. It’s a really good way for kids to have exposure to what it really looks like to be a scientist or be an engineer, so that they can realize that it’s a lot of jobs. It’s not just a person in a lab coat.”
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