Out of this World – Central’s STEAM camp returns for second year

“Based on feedback, we knew we wanted a theme this year and link it to the standards for late elementary kids,’ said Debbie Sayers, the Fountain City STEAM Camp organizer and Central High assistant principal. “Teachers, Tracy Pace and Leslie Sayers. talked and decided that “Space” was the way to go and that there are a lot of engaging activities to do with Space.”
The STEAM camp, which is open to fourth and seventh graders, is a community effort between elementary and middle schools in Central High’s feeder pattern. It is the first of its kind in North Knoxville, according to Debbie Sayers.
The week-long-program is a fun look at Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math – and in some ways serves as an introduction to high school classes.
“It’s getting them excited about learning and academics,” added Sayers. “We do so much for athletic development, why wouldn’t we do the same for their academic wonder? We want to get them excited about learning, we are using STEAM as a platform for doing that.”
Students tried their hand at dissecting a squid and a perch fish, which did not exactly fit with the Space theme, but had all of the campers buzzing afterwards. “I always want to incorporate dissection while they’re at this impressionable age and we want them to learn not to be scared or afraid of dissection when they get to high school,” said Sayers.
At a meeting in May organizers evaluated their long list of ideas. “We decided what the kids would like more and chose the more STEAM-related activities,” said Leslie Sayers, a volunteer teacher from Belle Morris. The camp is not affiliated with Knox County Schools, the teachers and student volunteers take time out of their summer to make it happen.
Fine arts teacher Matt Parks and ELA teacher Sarah Toll brought the arts component to STEAM. “They were in the middle of their musical when we talked about the theme and using the Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” for our skit, and they just ran with it,” said Sayers.
Even the snack making, are unique opportunities to learn. Students crafted galaxy bark (melted down chocolate with sprinkles swirled into it), built the constellation using gum drops, marshmallows and pretzel sticks, replicated the phases of the moon using Oreos, built a rocket out of s’mores ingredients and filled rocket ships with galaxy-themed treats.
Each camp day starts and ends with a chemical demonstration. “We always do something with fire, highly visual stuff that they get really excited about,” said Debbie Sayers. This week included a campfire show with constellations, a “Whoosh” bottle, methane bubbles and fire on a desk – where Sayers used chemicals to color the flames and turned the classroom lights out for an attention-getting experiment.
“Often kids will come to the camp on the first day thinking that it might be boring, but they definitely don’t feel that way by the end of the week,” said Leslie Sayers.
Throughout the week campers were grouped by grade level and worked on a skit and a multi-day project, The Mars Mission.
“I took them through the engineering process, then they started researching Mars and came up with the things that would be necessary and nice to have in their colony on the planet,” said Leslie Sayers. “They had to draw a blueprint to plan to include clean air, solar panels, and safety (from the Martians). On a poster board they created a model using recyclables to represent each of the parts of their colony. At the showcase we thought it would be nice for other campers and their families to hear the thought process.”

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