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South Valley Journal

High-tech camp prepares incoming seventh-graders

Aug 30, 2017 04:35PM ● By Jana Klopsch

A mobile space simulation challenged a crew of students to work together to rescue a planet. (Bryan Leggat/Joel P. Jensen Middle School)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Playing with spaghetti noodles and marshmallows is not what you’d expect from (almost) seventh-graders, but this and other hands-on activities were just what they needed to prepare for middle school.

Jordan School District provided a Summer STEM Camp for about 120 students entering seventh grade this fall into STEM Academy Middle Schools—Oquirrh Hills, Joel P. Jensen and West Jordan Middle.

“The purpose of the camp is to increase interest in STEM subjects, build interpersonal skills and provide an opportunity for incoming seventh-graders to have access to the building and teachers, making the move from their elementary school environment to the middle school more comfortable and successful,” said Jane Harward, district administrator on special assignment for science/STEM/health/PE/dance.

Each campus provided teachers to conduct the weeklong camp for 3040 students.

 “I feel our STEM program is a great experience to introduce these future Eagles to STEM careers, hands- on activities and help them to develop team building experiences,” said Terry Price, assistant principal at Oquirrh Hills. He also saw it as an opportunity to introduce the incoming seventh-graders to the school, the teachers and each other. Students at Oquirrh Hills feed in from Rosamond, Riverton, Southland and Midas Creek elementary schools.

“I’m excited to start seventh grade because of the teachers that I met at the STEM camp who are some of the teachers that I will have next year,” said Allison Price, who will be attending WJMS this fall. She also made new friends with those who share her love of math and science.

 Students worked in groups through various challenges like The Single Pringle Challenge, where they used only paper and tape to engineer a package to protect a potato chip from being crushed. Another activity challenged them to design a boat out of aluminum foil that would support more pennies (or golf balls) than their competitors’ boats. 

“STEM learning requires critical thinking, working together and thinking ‘outside of the box’ to solve problems and formulate explanations for phenomenon surrounding us in the world,” said Harward.

Aaron Roth, a teacher and camp adviser at WJMS, said building the boats was a great exercise in problem-solving as was a tower-building contest in which dry spaghetti noodles and marshmallows were the only construction materials. 

“There wasn’t a single activity we did that the students didn’t dive right into,” said Roth. “They loved every part, which is always a good surprise as a teacher.” 

The camps provided students access to techie toys such as Parrot Drones, Bloxels, Little Bits and Spheros. Using these toys, students learned the principles of remote control, designed robots, programmed video games, created websites and engineered cars for a gravity race track.

On another day, the INFINI-D mobile lab provided a spacecraft game simulation for student teams.

“INFINI-D simulators provide an opportunity for students to solve a carefully designed mission that is aligned to the new science with engineering education standards as a team,” said Harward. “This not only reinforces critical thinking skills and content but most importantly, teamwork and communication skills.”

The camp wasn’t all high-tech fun. Students made their own ice cream in a plastic bag using a simple reaction between salt and ice, said Allison. 

The students spent one day of camp at The Museum of Natural Curiosity. Allison said she enjoyed the Water Works Exhibit there, where she applied engineering principals to experiment with different combinations of pipes, channels, water pressure and gravity.

Hawkwatch International taught students how to use frequency tables using live birds to acquire and analyze data. 

“The raptors were the highlight of the presentation,” said Price. “Students were absolutely in awe of the birds.”

Funding for the camp, which provides lunch, snacks, T-shirts and prizes in addition to the activities, is through a STEMLink grant, which expired this summer. 

“We are in the process of trying to secure grant funding to continue the camp and program during the school year,” said Harward. “Ultimately, programs like this must be sustained by the school land trust funds and written into the school improvement plan.”