During Aztec Science Camp, kids are “doing science the way science should be done,” said Sarah Atallah, a lead teacher of the program.
For the first time, kids ages 6 to 11 are getting hands-on experience at the camp, hosted on San Diego State University’s campus.
Donna Ross and Lisa Lamb, associate professors from the School of Teacher Education, developed the camp with a couple of goals in mind: To get science and engineering undergraduates to think about teaching science as a possible career, and to have a fun and engaging science experience for children in the community. The program received support from SDSU’s Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative, the President’s Leadership Fund, the Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education and the Center for Teaching Critical Thinking and Creativity.
The camp, which started July 21 and runs through Aug. 8, is broken into three week-long segments. Parents can send their students to one, two, or all three sessions. Each week new topics are taught.
In one classroom, students work in a light and optics lab.
“Campers learn how rainbows are made, how shadows happen and how we can use light to help us,” said Amber Walsh, a lead teacher of the program.
Students make secret messages and discover how to decode them using the properties of light reflection and absorption. They are also able to combine their love for science and s’mores using solar ovens.
Magnifying the wonder of science
Magnetism and electricity are additional areas of science they explore. Students go beyond the realm of positive and negative attractions, and making their very own magnetic slime and building light bulbs.
“For most students a hands-on learning experience is the most effective way to learn science. It’s what gets them really excited, really involved and gets them asking questions,” Ross said.
The campers become mini engineers during Aztec Science Camp’s creative experiments, making hovercrafts from CDs and balloon powered rocket cars. They’ll even design and create their own mini-sized parachute.
“This experience definitely helps me to realize the importance of teamwork in the classroom,” Walsh said.
Teachers learning from students
The goal of the camp is to make science exciting for students from a young age. The little scientists venture from the College of Education to tour SDSU’s planetariums, physics and chemistry labs. The theme of fun continues as the campers learn the physics of bowling at Aztec Lanes.
This camp is beneficial, not only for the campers, but also for the professors, recently credentialed teachers and science interns who are running it.
“A big thing I’ve learned is really the facilitating,” Atallah said. “We need to be there and guide them and ask them all the questions, but it’s nice that there’s no right or wrongs and you’re really learning to let them explore.”
For complete details, visit the camp website.