Science and Technology News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer camp teaches science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

by Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer


7/28/2014 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It is one thing to teach someone about how air flow over the wing of an aircraft creates lift, but it is another thing to take them out of the classroom and let them put their hands on the wing of a real fighter jet.

This is the teaching technique behind the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado summer camp hosted at the Edward J. Peterson Air and Space Museum located in Peterson AFB's historic district. Three one-week long summer camp events took students from separate age groups outside of the routine educational environment--transporting them to a world where learning is fun and working together as a team is fundamental.

Campers used critical thinking in the areas of applied science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Peterson Air and Space Museum provided a unique and motivational setting that evoked inner creativity and stimulated a thirst for learning.

"Our focus at Challenger is to get kids interested in STEM--science, technology, engineering, and mathematics--our partnership with Peterson AFB started a few years back with the hosting of the 'STEM Rocks' event which is done every August and consists of all STEM focused activities for kids of all ages; our summer camp is an extension of that partnership we have with the base," said Ron Bush, Challenger Learning Center of Colorado education director and coordinator.

This was the first year Challenger held a summer camp at Peterson and with great success; three separate age group-centric camps were held with modified lesson plans to keep the campers engaged and excited about learning.

"The camp theme is aerospace innovations, where we look at all aspects of aviation history and we use that to relate it to STEM," said Bush. "We had three different camps this summer, one for younger children, middle age kids and another just for teenagers. We kept the same theme and technique for teaching but tailored the material learned to the appropriate age group."

With a theme like aerospace innovations and real aircraft on display yards away, it's really not difficult to create an event that was both fun and educational for all who attended the camp.

"We start with the basics, like, forces of flight, understanding the control surfaces of an aircraft, and we looked at aviation history and how things changed and developed, like navigation systems and how we ended up with using GPS in aviation today," said Bush. "The great thing about having the camp at the Peterson Air and Space Museum is not only can we teach the students about the components of an aircraft, but take them right outside to the exhibits and show them on a real aircraft. That's just not something you can do at other facilities."

The children and teens who attended the camps were shown that learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics doesn't have to be boring and dull; in fact, it can be creative, exciting and fun.

"Because it's fun--it's a great way to look at STEM; I have been a teacher for more than 13-years and aviation is such an interesting topic that it is easy to incorporate the ideas of science and math into hands-on activities," said Bush. "The kids are busy for the entire week, building and flying things; testing and creating things which all have to do with math and science related education. They loved it."

Partnership is critical to making opportunities like this happen, the pulling together of resources, knowledge and experience has made this "test run" summer camp session a success and provided a positive outlook for more camps to be organized for next summer for Team Pete youths to take advantage of.

"We have had such a good relationship with Jeffery Nash and Gail Whalen here at the space museum, this is such a great space to host a camp and I would love to see it expand because this is such a wonderful facility and really lends itself to better educatings kids and teens about STEM," said Bush.

To learn more about the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado, visit http://www.clccs.org/ or contact Ron Bush at rbush@clccs.org.

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