The Science and Stars Camp earlier this month was all about exploring for the 15 youngsters who attended the four-day explorer camp at the Page Instructional Site.
They examined the characteristics of various plants around the campus, explored soil, discussed the meaning of exploration and places or things they would like to explore, learned how scientists search for planets, among others, according to the instructors who taught at the camp.
“They’re vibrant and they’re dying for something to do with their hands and their minds,” said Andrew Allen, a chemistry instructor and the science lab coordinator at Coconino Community College in Flagstaff. Allen was one of the camp instructors.
“They all made terrariums and they drew pictures and labeled them. We (did experiments) with salt and (water), and we put them under the microscope … and they drew the crystals.”
Allen went on saying the students also dug up soil in which there were worms.
“Ah, worms!” some of the students exclaimed.
This camp was CCC’s first science and stars camp in Page and the instructors say it was a success. The tuition for each student was $75. But for the students who could not pay, a few members of the community paid it for them.
“We did all kinds of lab activities,” Allen explained. “We (built) rockets out of two-liter bottles – they were awesome. We (built) hot-air balloons and at night we took a bunch of telescopes out to Greenhaven, Utah, and (did) astronomy and played some games. All kinds of good stuff like that.”
The city of Page has hosted a science and stars camp before, but not quite hosted a science and stars camp before but not like this which was science-focused, said Allen, adding that the campers ranged in age from 7 to 12.
Because the camp was limited to only 15 students, many were placed on the wait list. Allen says a second round of the camp is currently being discussed but nothing is final.
“This is just having fun,” Allen added. “Page is tough. Kids don’t have a lot to do up here, so we’re glad to (have) put on a nice camp for them.”
The instructors say one of the hardest things about getting children interested in STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – fields is they simply do not have a lot of exposure to it beyond being users of technology.
“If you can really keep it about exploring and discovery,” said Melinda McKinney, a biology instructor at CCC in Flagstaff, who taught at the camp. “If they have that experience of actually discovering something itself or coming to a conclusion for the first time and being able to solve a problem, then there’s a great sense of accomplishment that comes along. That can be what sustains someone interested in the field where you can start learning.”
She went on to say, “It’s like you have more and more tools in your toolbox and you’re able to explore the world and the world becomes much more interesting to a child.”
McKinney says this camp provided a forum where the younger generation would be exposed to nonfiction content that is engaging, life-enhancing, life-sustaining, and supports science standards.
“By having a forum, a camp like this, where we’re able to base it on science and then talk about all of the things that science enables us to do, and you can talk about how it––,” McKinney said. “So, just by giving us an opportunity to come together, and talk about it, it’s really exposing the younger generation to it because they’re not really exposed to it. I think once they get that exposure, that hands-on sort of, manipulating the microscope.”