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Science Camp mixes outdoor education and real-world tools

Our Spring Break Science Camp was a great preview of the hands-on Creative STEM activities coming up in our Summer Camps! It combined outdoor exploration, hands-on STEM, and personal growth and discovery. Children also got a taste for real-world engineering and tools.

 

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Outdoor education is an important part of iSchool’s offerings and philosophies. Our Creative STEM Summer Camps will be held at Armstrong Elementary School in Reston, which offers ample places to explore and play outside. During our Spring Break Science Camp, children went on multiple Nature Walks to identify plants and explore interesting structures near the school, like a Sound Chamber. Days after the end of camp, children were still talking about what they had personally discovered while on the Nature Walks — holly, blackberry, wild rose, red cedar, green briar, poison ivy, maple, pine, wild grape, and onion grass — and linking their findings to their own homes and local environments.  As we have found repeatedly, going outside provides a place-based opportunity to study a local environment and increases the relevance of lessons to children’s daily lives. Guided exploration, such as what iSchool offers in its Summer Camps, connects children to their environment and their communities. It also allows for play-based learning, which is how children learn best.

 

Going outside also makes the links between various STEM disciplines clear. During the Spring Break Science Camp, children visited a nearby Stormwater Control Pond. They talked about the basics of physics and gravity on water, examined how the ground had been engineered to control runoff, and observed differences in vegetation around the pond versus the channel and surrounding grounds. This also offers an example of how iSchool incorporates real-world science into its programs. Our lessons are rarely hypothetical, but instead based on place-based, real-world structures in the environment.

 

The forgiving nature of the outdoors (messes!) also lends itself to scientific experimentation.  During the Camp, children made their own self-watering planters and planted them with basil seeds. Along the way they experimented with different types of wicks and designs to see which would work best. Our camps present science truthfully as a complex discipline. During the Spring Break Science Camp, students discussed science as both a body of knowledge and an organized way to study their world.

 

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Some of the biggest hits of our Spring Break Science Camp were activities that involved real-world tools that children rarely get to use. Over a two-day period children built their own flashlights, using real hardware and soldering tools to make working electrical connections. Children were proud to turn off the lights during the final show and demonstrate their working flashlights.  Children also dissected a laptop and saw how tools in their daily lives are composed and connected.  Children also examined a 3D Printer and used it to print 3D designs of their own choosing.  Incorporating real-world tools and technologies is another important part of our approach and our Summer Camps will include many of these popular, educational, and fun learning opportunities.

 

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All of our camps incorporate our exclusive STEAM SEL curriculum, which encourages innovative thinking and emotional growth in addition to inspiring a love of science.  Everyone one of our upcoming Summer Camps will include a Marshmallow Tower Creative Build Activity. In the Spring Break Science Camp, children build towers from spaghetti and marshmallows. In addition to understanding engineering basics, children also embraced failure, found that they could persevere, formed strong teams, and followed their own ideas.  Children also learned essentials of physics and thought outside-of-the-box while banking marbles around roller coasters made from pipe insulation.  The Spring Break Science Camp also incorporated many of our exclusive Social and Emotional Life Skills lessons, such as empathy, identity, self-regulation, respect, and a world view. These exciting learning opportunities that encourage creativity, allow for freedom and personalization, and grow emotional intelligence will be in every one of our Summer Camps.

 

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In our efforts to support learning experiences that are tailored to the inner genius in each individual child, each of our camps supports and celebrates individual projects.  iSchool employs the 6-3-5 Brainstorming Method and Design Thinking.  This uses the power of collaboration to generate many ideas. In the Spring Break Science Camp the group of students brainstormed and passed their ideas around using this method, and then individual students worked on their projects with the support of iSchool teachers and volunteers.  In all of camps, including in our upcoming Summer Camps, students collaboratively plan a show for their parents in which they show off their projects and learning.  Project planning, which requires big thinking as well as attention to detail, is a critical part of our SEL curriculum.  In the Spring Break Science Camp, student projects were as varied as dissecting a computer, creating a Powerpoint presentation on an imaginary Micro-Nation, and building a paper plate roller coaster.

 

Students in our Summer Camps experience our effective STEAM SEL curriculum in its entirety, and come out of our camps transformed, ready to learn, and more prepared to succeed as they grow.  Register today for one of our camps!

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Special thanks to Teacher Rustom Meyer and Volunteer Kiera Koen!

 

 

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