A group of 20 young ladies from middle schools across Surry County have completed the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Summer Camp at J. Sam Gentry Middle School.
“The purpose of this camp is to nurture young ladies in developing skills for careers in science, technology, engineering and math that are predominately male,” said Gentry Principal Paige Badgett. “STEM camp has given these selected girls the opportunity to learn 21st century skills through project based learning.”
Badgett also explained that the participants in the camp have not only built relationships with other middle school students in the county through the program but have applied critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, adaptability, productivity, accountability, leadership and responsibility within their activities.
“We are fortunate in Surry County Schools to have the Golden LEAF Grant which supports our STEM initiative through Project Lead the Way. It has been a pleasure to host this year’s STEM camp,” said Badgett. She added that PLTW encompasses the framework for 21st century in all middle and high schools in county schools.
“It’s exciting to be involved with this initiative,” said Pilot Mountain Middle School science teacher Janna Blakeney. “It was good to work with the other Project Lead the Way teachers as well.” Blakeney will receive two weeks more training at Duke University later this summer as PLTW is refined and expanded in county schools in the fall.
Blakeney and Gentry teacher Karen Hodges worked with others at the camp under the direction of master teacher Freda Parker. Badgett said that science coach for Surry County Middle Schools Heather Horton and Computer Technology Education Coordinator Jill Reinhardt also have been invaluable for the STEM initiative.
The three explained that very little class time was spent on computers. Team building activities included building newspaper towers, catapults from everyday objects and transporting golf balls in short sections of tubing down hill. The group also built Lego robots, programmed them on computers and then “released” the robots to see if they could run a preset course.
Students also designed their own eco-friendly jewelry that had to be sketched out on the computer. Teams were made up of members from different schools.
“It’s opening doors for some girls,” commented Hodges. “They gain a lot of confidence through this camp. They have exceeded my expectations, often solving their own engineering problems. You should have seen the excitement!”
The teachers agreed that this zest for science and problem solving was best summed up with the phrase “geek is sheek.” They said one participant had calculated the age of cartoon character “Spongebob Squarepants” partially on how many weeks he was named employee of the week at the “Krusty Krab” restaurant.
“I hope to see you ladies stepping up to assist your teachers,” said Hodges as she addressed the girls before the completed the camp on Friday. “You have excelled in all the activities here. You really blew us away with what you accomplished.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.