STEM camp opens world of math and science for Osceola County students
By Tiffanie Reynolds
Spending a week learning about the properties, functions and roles of water doesn’t sound like the typical summer camp.
News-Gazette Photo/Marc Clery
From left, Nicole Burroughs,11, Madison Adams,13, and Ellie Ruiz,11, construct a contraption to hold water during Discovery Education STEM camp at Neptune Middle School near St. Cloud on Monday.
But for Bryana Guzman, incoming sixth grader at Denn John Middle School, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore her passion
“We were just having fun with our contraption,” said Guzman, referring to a water relay race she just finished. “And it’s just fun. Meeting new people, trying new things.”
She is one of 40 middle-school boys and girls at Neptune Middle School for Discovery Education’s STEM camp. Split into Neptune on the east side of Osceola County and Parkway Middle School on the west side of the county, the camp targets students who show a potential for science and math and introduces them to possible career opportunities in those fields.
This is the fourth year for the camp and the first year the district decided to split workgroups between boys and girls. It also extended the camp to include ESOL students.
Parkway Middle School holds 60 students for the camp, a group of 20 girls, 20 boys and 20 students in the ESOL program. Including ESOL (English as a Second Language) students gives them a comfortable environment to participate in the same activities that other students in the camp are working on. By the end of the week, students at both schools will get together and compare the different ways groups reached their conclusions on their water projects.
“They’re the students on the cusp. We want to give them a push of why they want to do math and why they want to learn science and what careers they can have, and to make education a little bit more important to them. To just open up worlds that they wouldn’t be exposed to normally,” said Anna Marie Greller, eighth grade algebra I honors teacher, math coach and department chair of Neptune Middle School.
Throughout the school year, science and math departments across the county collaborate with each other and Discovery Education to select a theme for the camp. Discovery Education provides the district with theme options and trains teachers moderating the camp in strategies to demonstrate the functions of math and science in those themes. On top of group projects, students in the camp participate in a career center where they see how STEM fields impacts the world around them and which careers best match their individual interests.
Started four years ago as a way to target and encourage more students to pursue STEM careers after high school, Greller said that she has seen a positive change in campers after a week of STEM camp. She said that students who attended the camp leave more focused in school and have a better idea of where they want to go after high school. They are more involved in their own education and planning, she said. Discovery Education Professional Development Specialist Kristina Spencer, who works with Greller and other district teachers with the camp, said that she also sees a positive change with students in the
camp every year.
“The best part to me is watching the students. You give them this material and say create a contraption. There’s no rhyme, reason, parameters given,” said Spencer. “First they kind of stare at it, then all of a sudden they get into rich, deep conversations about creating it and the engineering behind it, and really going into that essence that it’s okay to try something and it not work the first time, and recreating it and building it and using the science and the math that they know.”