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August 10, 2009

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August 10, 2009

This was a wonderful camp – probably the best STEM program I’ve seen. I would definitely vote this as a Best Practice for STEM camps. Here's why: i. The kids were totally transformed into a very different environment. Everything from parking in a lot next to giant military planes, to entering the lobby with space murals on the walls and an astronaut suspended overhead, to the classrooms decorated in space motif – there was definitely a “were not in Kansas” feel to the camp. Right away you knew that something very different was possible. ii. The kids were made instantly a part of the flight culture. Everyone had a new “nickname” or call sign. This assumption that they were already “in” and therefore already possessing the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform was amazing. My son was no longer the kid who hated to do math, he was now Dark Wing the astronaut-in-training, who needed to do math because that is what is needed for the mission. They held to these call names until the last day, when their civilian identities were unveiled. iii. The teachers wore flight uniforms that looked like they came right from NASA. This set the teachers apart as someone special, which of course, they are. iv. Inquiry learning: Start with a problem – how to build a rocket. Ask – what do we need to know? Divide the work into different chunks and go for it! This is how science and math should be taught!!! There is no right or wrong, only problems, facts, observations, assumptions and opinions. The Starbase instruction helps kids to recognize these “buckets” and what to do with each. I really believe that most problems come about from people not understanding the difference between these things. v. The camp was subdivided into groups and each group had a different piece of the mission. Wow – this is just like the real world! The kids needed to not only come to a conclusion, but present their conclusion to the other groups. Very clever! There was also a nice balance between teamwork and individual work. vi. Great curriculum: The teachers were knowledgeable and used a nice mix of lecture, inquiry, video clips, experimentation, etc., etc. vii. Scientist/Engineer show-and-tell: It’s important for kids to see how everything they have learned is applied in the real world every day. I thought it was great to have engineers/scientists come to the camp on Wednesday for a bit of shop talk with the kids. Who would have thought that what you need to know about pressure, force and thrust for space flight is the same stuff that you need to know to make Cheerios? viii. Graduation ceremony was a “big thing,” again emphasizing that the kids had learned something special. That was the "parent perspective". Here is the impact this experience had on my child. a. He has always liked space, but never really believed me when I told him that he needed to know a lot of math to be an astronaut or even an astronomer. Now he knows first-hand what is needed. He use to complain all the time about how he hated math. Now he talks about how much he loves math, even though it is sometimes hard. When he encounters a problem he use to whine about it. Now all I have to do is say: “Dark Wing – think like a scientist” and his whole attitude changes. This is pretty profound! b. He is counting down to the year 2035 and has already figured out that he is the perfect age to train for being the first human to set foot on Mars.

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If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

expand. First to ensure that all 4th/5th grade students can attend this 4 day program and second to develop curriculum so that each child can attend a second program in middle school where they can learn even more about applied math/science.

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2009

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