New ways of learning sprout from STEM camp
Hillsboro recreation’s STEM camp is still weeks away, but Koen Janzen already is excited after attending last year’s camp.
“It was really not the same as sports,” he said. “It was more fun, but I do love sports.”
Koen, a Hillsboro fourth grader, enjoys seeing classmates outside a classroom setting, Koen said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my friends, but also to learning and cooperating with them,” he said.
The camp, July 13 to 17, will feature a variety activities focused on science, technology, engineering and math. Previous years included building a free-standing tower, creating a soccer goal from paper, and doing a cushioned egg-drop off a fire truck. Activities are not graded.
Camp leader Tamara Cassidy finds that children respond to the camp because there are fewer pressures and there’s acceptance that ideas often don’t go as planned.
“It feels like more fun,” she said. “They’re free to play, more free to take risks and dream of some wild solutions to the problems because it is lower risk.”
However, Koen said he wished some aspects of school were retained at camp.
“I like getting graded to see what I need to adjust, but I also like feeling free to let it out,” he said.
Cassidy, a sixth-grade teacher at Hillsboro, avoids using cell phones or tablets in an effort to stimulate children’s analytical skills.
“Everything has to come from ideas, prototypes, and trying things,” she said. “Everything is problem solving; everything is working with a group. They work on those skills that pay off, not only in school, but in life.”
Cassidy doesn’t repeat many activities year-to-year, so she spends much of the year doing research, reading blogs, and brainstorming new ideas.
While Koen enjoyed all of last year’s activities, his favorite was the camp’s escape room.
The annual camp is a good method for Cassidy to meet future students because she often won’t teach them in school for a couple years after they start attending camp.
“The sooner we can connect and begin to build a relationship — I think it pays off later when they’re in my classroom,” she said.
When it comes to creating bonds, it isn’t just teacher-student interaction. The annual classes feature two groups of up to 20 children, one with third and fourth graders, and the other with fifth and sixth graders.
Attending in 2019 helped Koen make friends from outside his grade level.
“I got to meet a lot of fourth graders who were really nice and I got to learn with them,” he said.