The Cole R-1 STEM-tastic Summer Camp has doubled the amount of summer school participants in Russellville.
The summer education program, toting 181 participants from May 14 to June 1, blended creative learning and instructive fun to teach children about science, technology, engineering and math, as well as some literacy-themed activities. Organizers hoped to fend off dreaded summer learning loss and help get students excited about experiential, STEM-oriented learning techniques. The program was free and provided students with breakfast and lunch.
Russellville Elementary and Middle School organized the STEM-tastic Summer Camp in an effort to increase summer school attendance.
"We decided that we wanted it to be a little more hands-on and fun for (the children)," Summer Camp Facilitator Larissa Mehmert said. "It really drew (in students). Our attendance almost doubled this year from where we were at last year."
The summer camp's classes intertwined elements of all four STEM subject matters — science, technology, engineering and math — with teaching methods that make learning entertaining for the students.
On May 30, fifth-grade students individually designed and constructed little catapults and found out how far they could launch plastic army men down the hallway.
"The kids don't realize that they are doing math," Mehmert said. "They don't realize when they are building those catapults that they're learning about angles and velocity and different things. They just think they are having fun, but they are getting to be creative. Some of the things that these things can come up with is just amazing to me."
Other learning activities included the sixth grade's island survival project, in which students constructed miniature islands in boxes and planned how they hypothetically would survive if stranded there.
Second- and third-graders took part in fairy tale-themed learning in which they engineered little houses, trying to build a structure strong enough to withstand the bluster of an angry wolf to keep the little piggies safe inside.
"They got out hairdryers for the wind to blow on their houses, so they had a lot of fun with that," Mehmert said.
The fourth grade focused on growth, learning of how students could use mistakes to gain insight on being successful in the future.
"It's OK to fail," Mehmert said. "Some of our smartest people had a lot of failures, (but they are) able to come up with ways to fix them."
Summer camp students with perfect attendance throughout the week were eligible for Friday field trips, like learning about engineering history at Arrow Rock State Historic Site.
Mehmert said the district intends to hold the summer camp again next year and may add some robotics lessons to the curriculum. She said students have been better behaved than during the regular school year and hopes the students will carry the lessons they learned over into the semester and maybe even into their careers.
"I've had several teachers comment that they see the excitement in the kids, and it makes it so much easier when they are excited about their learning," Mehmert said. "There's a ton of STEM jobs out there, and they don't realize this is preparing them for that far in the future."