STEM camp under way


Students William Gonzalez, left, and Landon Smith are working on a robotics project.

Teacher Joe Whisnant helps prepare students for their project.

Jeff Edwards is showing students a step in their gel electrophoresis process.

Students are measuring out their ‘extraction buffer’ for their project.

The Surry County Schools’ Science, Technology, Electronics and Mathematics (STEM) camp is under way this week at Meadowview Magnet Middle.

The STEM camp is offered free to participants, funded primarily through various grants. The program originally started as an all-girls camp four years ago at Gentry Middle School. STEM is now expanded to both a boys and girls camp.

Although still segregated for some classes, the camp integrates both genders for some activities.

Students who choose to participate are offered free lunches and bus rides from their home school to Meadowview where the camp is taking place.

Students participating in the camp are building robotic dragsters and pinball machines; among other activities; which all are 100-percent hands on, according to organizers.

Tammy Taylor and Joe Whisnant are two of the teachers who help students with completing their daily tasks.

Taylor, who has taught math for 23 years, decided to help with the camp for the first time this year. She said it was a real change from her everyday class room as there is very little direct instruction involved with STEM.

Taylor set up a store in her class room, where she provided the students with monopoly money and they were able to buy supplies needed for their project. The store helped students understand the cost efficiency of their product, which is one of the judging criteria when the students do their presentation for the product they created during the camp.

STEM “Gives students a good opportunity to learn design opportunity and have some fun and the opportunity to build on what they might want to do in their future,” said Taylor.

The camp is offering a new program this year, biotechnology.

The camp will help students chose which which coursework to focus on should they decide to enter the biotechnology field of work.

“Working with any STEM activity teaches you how to think, communicate and work with others as a group; all of which are qualities that an employer would be looking for,” said biotechnology camp teacher Jeff Edwards

The biotechnology camp, which consists of 110 students, will explore how DNA is used to solve crime by studying and conducting gel electrophoresis; which is a method use to separate the DNA.

The program will also have a video chat with the director of NC State Crime Lab, John Byrd.

Teachers also participated in training on creating mathematical thinkers as part of a partnership with UNC Greensboro, which provided graduate level work to each trainer on how to teach mathematics through, math talk and math tasks. Dr. Jill Anderson said “The concept is to learn math conceptually.” Anderson is the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction

STEM programs are trying to teach students a new way of learning — “Learning conceptually is a part of our new standards of study” Dr. Jill Reinhardt said.

Eva Queen can be reached at (336) 415-4739 or equeen@civitasmedia.com

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