STAM jam: Camp takes one little word and makes a big impact

Published 10:49 am Thursday, July 27, 2017

The STAM Camp at Pacelli Elementary School this week has activities that hinge on what would seem like simple words: Float. Morph. Stick. Spin.

But how about if you use those words to spin activities in the Science, Technology, Art and Math (STAM) realms?

For instance, one art session is about Japanese fabric marbling, which uses colors that float on water. Another session, this one in science, studies fog and clouds, which also float.

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You get the picture.

STAM Camper Lexi Lewis, 10, checks out her design.

Creating that special — and fun, kids will tell you — curriculum for the two-week camp are staff and parents at Pacelli, led by high school principal Laura Marreel, and assisted by four teenage middle school counselors. They oversee 22 kids in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade.

The camp has been part of the Pacelli summer instructional fare for the past several years, Marreel said, and is scheduled to occur in mid-July.

“It’s really good to offer our kids options for enrichment … to combat that midsummer regression that can occur,” said Marreel. “This type of camp helps the kids get interested in school again, and its fun.”

The days, as noted above, each have themes. This week, Marreel leads children in art and technology events. while Heidi Becker, a mom who has a degree in meteorology, oversees the science and math activities.

On one day, you might see the children making “molecule marshmallows,” via toothpicks and mini marshmallows; on another, they might be studying chemistry with the creation of rock candy, which helps demonstrate the different phases of matter.

Students use floor squares to find out whether they could successfully complete a computer coding exercise.

Or, there is the ever-popular magnetic slime, that used liquid starch, glue and iron powder, used in a lesson on sticking.

Becker is an enthusiastic mom who declared she was doubtful about her teaching abilities, but quickly found herself both learning and having fun right along with the kids. On Wednesday, she welcomed KAAL Chief Meteorologist Chris Kuball to class. He demonstrated several atmospheric conditions with everything from a Bernoulli bag, which helps explain air dynamics, to “a cloud in a jar,” which shows how clouds are formed.

If nothing else, Becker said she wants children to know “there’s science everywhere.”

“And that there is still stuff to be discovered; that there are exciting things out there still to be uncovered,” she said.

The camp also provided time for four middle school students to serve as support in the classroom. Not only do those students help the instructors, they forge a relationship with younger students — connections, Marreel said, that are valuable as the younger children reach the higher grades.

Students demonstrate their magnetic “slime,” created as part of an exercise in the STAM (Science, Technology, Art, Math) camp held this week and next at Pacelli Elementary School. Photo provided

It is a mutual admiration society, said Madi Rysavy, 14, who will enter ninth grade in the fall.

“I like working with the younger students, and giving back to the school,” she said.

She added she enjoyed watching the activities, too, as much as her younger counterparts.

There was no lack of enthusiasm among the younger set, either.

“It is so much fun,” exclaimed Lexi Lewis, 10, who will enter fifth grade this fall. “It’s been really cool. We’ve made magnetic slime, and mazes with Legos. We’ve made yarn letters. And,” she said, pointing to the fabric she had recently marbled, “that is my favorite so far. But I have to say all the things we’ve done have been really fun.”