Handmade catapults, balloon shooters and hurricane-proof structures were among the many creations taking center stage at Bloomsburg University’s annual STEM Adventure Camps this summer.
Nearly 1,000 students from four area schools converged on campus for a week of exploring ways to grow their science, technical, engineering and math interests and abilities. The camps, coordinated by Bloomsburg University’s STEM Education Center, also investigated the arts. And for the group of education majors and graduate students leading many of the STEM sessions, it was just as captivating and rewarding.
“Getting to see that ‘ah-ha!’ moment — seeing the smiles and laughs when singing songs — or just laughing at me because I said something goofy was what really made me realize why I do this,” said Carolann Green, a senior early childhood education major. “I’ve found the career that brings out the best of me.”
Serena Sacher, a senior early childhood education major, saw similar enthusiasm amongst the campers.
“Some of my favorite highlights were getting to work hands-on with students and getting to see how excited they were to be on a college campus,” Sacher said. “Many of them told me how they want to come here when they get older, which showed me how enthusiastic they were for the STEM camp and just for learning in general!”
According to Sachar, one of her biggest takeaways was hearing campers’ feedback on what they enjoyed about the lessons and what things they thought were interesting.
“This helped me determine what kinds of activities were effective and fun for students,” Sachar said. “This week tremendously helped me prepare for student teaching, because it gave me real, in-person practice teaching students. As much as textbooks, classes and observation hours are helpful in getting me ready for teaching, actually working with students in a real classroom is very beneficial since I get to put my ideas into action.”
Green also appreciated the opportunity in leading a classroom.
“My favorite part was interacting with the diverse group of children,” Green said. “I’m a Pre-K to fourth grade major, and I got to interact with children from fourth to seventh grade. It was an amazing experience. I got to utilize different behavior management techniques. I got to create lesson plans for multiple grades in hopes of challenging them, and I also felt like I got a sense of what grade I would like to teach in the future.”
Green said hearing the campers’ talk through their thought processes when going through the activities was a joyful aspect as well. A validation she has chosen the right career path, she added.
“I feel I found kind of a niche when it comes to grabbing students’ attention or getting them to quiet down in a chatter filled classroom,” Green said. “I tried different things and found what works best for each student, as well as myself. I feel I got more experience with collaborating with my fellow teachers as well. Having two brains producing ideas and creativity was definitely better than one.”
According the Green, the STEM week really wet her appetite for her upcoming student teaching placement.
“I wish I could do things like this every semester, because I felt like I only got a taste of what student teaching is going to be like,” Green said. “Although, I did get to take the first steps to what it is going to be like when it comes to lesson planning for each day, preparing the night before for a fun-filled day and being quick on your toes when something goes wrong. Being in the classroom felt like being at home, and I wish I could’ve felt that more often during my time at Bloomsburg.”
In retrospect of her week, Sachar discovered a beneficial second perspective to the STEM camps.
“First, it gives students an out of classroom experience on a college campus, motivating them to work hard so they can one day study here themselves,” Sachar said. “Also, it gives BU students an opportunity to work with students from local schools and work on their teaching skills.”
Green also sees the STEM camps as a great a benefit to local schools, a meaningful break as their school year comes to a close.
“Students got to participate in fun hands-on activities in a new and exciting environment, while their teachers got to take a much-deserved break from their regular teaching schedule,” Green said. “I also think this camp is important, because subjects like math and science sometimes gain a large disliking from students as they grow older. I think having a week filled with lessons like the ones we did reminded students that math and science can be really fun subjects, and we can hopefully inspire them to pursue careers in STEM.”
Green added, “This is the future we are teaching, and if we don’t inspire them or make them feel they can make a difference in the world then what are we even doing here? Hopefully we’re raising the next generation of engineers, mathematicians, artists, and scientists! That’s what really makes this all worthwhile.”
BU's STEM Adventure Camps were made possible through a grant from PPL.