Stories come to life in Science Matters
Science Matters summer enrichment camps concluded the 2023 season with “Full STEM Ahead” and “Storybook STEM” sessions. This interactive and engaging summer enrichment program is hosted by the Office of STEM Outreach in the College of Sciences and Mathematics.
Each of the six summer camp weeks focused on a different STEM theme including math, space, earth, plants and animals, sustainability and the final week where everyday stories came to life through hands-on science activities. In addition, an affiliated camp was offered through the Museum of Natural History called “Curious Curators.”
“Through active learning, they are applying what they heard in the story through fun art crafts,” said Taylor Shipman, a future educator and student in the College of Education who participated in the “Storybook STEM” week.
Shipman is one of 24 pre-service teachers from the College of Education that received valuable teaching experience through Science Matters by partnering with and learning from certified teachers that serve as instructors at the camp. She was also able to practice classroom management skills — expertise hard to acquire from a textbook.
“Being part of the Science Matters program is great practice for anyone who wants to be a teacher,” added Shipman. “You get two full weeks of hands-on experience and each week you get to see a cohort of students learn together. It is important to have this experience before I enter the classroom because it helps me recognize key concepts,” she said.
The pre-service teachers aren’t the only ones that benefit. Campers spent the summer using many everyday supplies to create STEM-themed crafts and engage in science experiments – acquiring valuable concepts. Many brought what they learned in the classroom home to share with their families.
“I have appreciated the thoughtfulness of the lessons and the pairing of science and literature. My daughter, Emma, has had a fantastic time and has enjoyed making “salsa” slime, to be like the salsa read in “Dragons Love Tacos,” even sharing that you must put enough baking soda in it! I look forward to her participating in more Science Matter sessions in the future,” said Stephanie Willis, Science Matters parent and instruction coordinator for the EAGLES program at Auburn University.
During the “Storybook STEM” week campers also made crafts based on the book, “I Need My Monster,” by Amanda Noll. In this humorous tale, a little boy cannot sleep without his monster when it goes missing. They used noodles, Play-Doh and pipe cleaners to create fun little monsters of their own from the story.
Science Matters also provides parental peace of mind by keeping children actively engaged in learning in a fun and encouraging atmosphere throughout the summer.
Another parent, Elizabeth Eckardt, stated, “While there are so many great camps, Science Camp was my daughter’s favorite! Not only was she having fun and making new friends, but it was all done within the context of science-related concepts. My daughter loved all her camp leaders and came home sharing the latest science facts she had learned.”
Campers got outside during the “Curious Curators” week of camp which allows children to become naturalists. Campers participated in a combination of outdoor fieldwork activities and indoor class instruction led by the Auburn Museum of Natural History staff. The camp focused on the significance of natural history collections, how museum collections are curated and grow, the importance of biodiversity, an exploration of our local biodiversity and the scientists who study it.
“As most parents know, finding summer activities for kids in that “middle” is very difficult. My son, age 11, was not happy about ‘another camp.’ However, after the first day of the Curious Curators camp, he came home SO EXCITED. Perhaps more excited than I have seen him about anything in a while” said Kara Newby, Curious Curators parent and outreach project administrator for the Hunger Solutions Institute with the College of Human Sciences.
“The week of the camp he woke up each morning, made his own lunch and was always the first one ready to go in the morning. He really loved his experience, and I can tell those working at the camp worked hard to put together a quality program. They treated the students as ‘science colleagues’ rather than ‘kids.’ As a mom of a kid who is often bored and frustrated with school, this was just what he needed to become reengaged with the things that interest him. I only wish there were more weeks available,” stated Newby.
Plans are already underway for next summer’s Science Matters camps. Please follow STEM Outreach on Facebook (@cosamouteach), Instagram (@cosamoutreach) or join the STEM Outreach mailing list to be one of the first to learn where the stories of Science Matters in 2024 will lead.
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