Indiana GEAR UP STEM Camp

Indiana GEAR UP STEM Camp
Indiana GEAR UP STEM Camp

            Maple Crest STEM Middle School 7th-graders spent a week this summer exploring, building, tinkering, and experimenting during the Indiana GEAR UP: STEM Summer Camp.

            The campers engaged in creative and fun STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities, each of which had an academic focus. The camp centered on four major lesson strands: Abiotic, Biotic, Ecology, and Engineering. Within those strands, students completed activities such as dissecting owl pellets; designing and launching rockets; identifying animals and insects in nature; and designing, building, and testing water filtration systems.

            Maple Crest English teacher Shanna Hampton, who helped oversee the camp activities, noted that students loved the camp because it was hands-on, and encouraged students to be scientists and leaders.

            “The students were leaders during the camp, while the teachers were the facilitators,” Mrs. Hampton explained. “The students were able to go out each day and explore. Yes, we set the foundation for them, but we left it open for them to come up with the questions and explore. That dynamic allowed the students to think outside the box.”

            One afternoon at camp, Lawrence Lewis IV and several other campers built a water filtration system using cotton balls, sand, coffee filters, and carbon. The water started with a pH of more than 12. After their first round of filtration, the pH dropped to approximately 9.

            Lawrence could see a noticeable difference in the water.

            “Our water was black in the beginning, but after we filtered it, the water was just murky; you could see through it,” Lawrence explained. “I think our carbon helped in the filtration.”

            Lawrence explained that he chose to participate in the summer camp to give him something fun to do during summer break… and so he could learn something new along the way. Lawrence added that the camp was more fun every day.

            Camper Caitlin Finnley saw the Indiana GEAR UP: STEM Summer Camp promotional video, and knew she wanted to participate. Her favorite part?

            “I loved going into the woods and exploring,” she said.

            Lawrence added that he found dragonflies, tadpoles, beetles, and spiders during their adventures in the woods.

            Kokomo School Corporation is one of only 10 Indiana school districts to partner with Purdue University in the first year of the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) grant awarded to Purdue by the U.S. Department of Education. The grant amount is anticipated to be $3.5 million annually, with the allocation totaling as much as $24.5 million over seven years. The partner school districts will receive support from Purdue for all seven years the grant is administered.

            The goal of the program is to better prepare students to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The program is designed to include academic facets and college knowledge – both identified by research as key components of college readiness programs.

            In addition to the Indiana GEAR UP: STEM Summer Camp, services to partner schools include tutoring, mentoring, academic support, remediation, test preparation, college visits, career exploration, and teacher professional development.

            “Through this project, we will be able to provide much-needed support for students beginning in middle school that will enable them to experience success and have the opportunity to choose their future academic path,” Carla C. Johnson, Executive Director of Indiana GEAR UP in the Purdue College of Education, said. “The grant will not only support students, but also will provide on-the-ground professional development within Indiana partner schools to grow teacher effectiveness, and after-school programs that will engage parents and the community.”


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