For some kids, school didn’t stop on the last day of classes in June.
Ninety-one students from around the area took part in SUNY Cobleskill’s STEM camp last week, learning all about science, technology, engineering and math.
The camp was a return of SUNY camps in the past, though with a twist. Camp Schoco, a more traditional summer camp, existed for years, and more recently, the college hosted a CSI camp, demonstrating careers in forensics when a same-named TV show was popular.
SUNY Cobleskill’s Marie Gerhardt and Provost Susan Zimmermann worked on the STEM concept.
“STEM is a buzz thing now,” Ms. Gerhardt said. “Susan wanted something educational but fun.”
At the same time, Brett Barr, principal at Cobleskill-Richmondville’s Radez School, was brainstorming with remedial math teacher Kate Elder.
“Kate and I were talking about something to do with STEM for a couple of years,” Mr. Barr said, “and then Kate began putting it together with the college.”
The camp had young students create golf course holes, work on computers and tackle other STEM projects.
After classroom work in the mornings, they spent afternoons learning how science and technology fit in with dairy, livestock, the hatchery, wildlife labs and culinary at the college, Ms. Gerhardt said.
The Community Library added a “Lego Land” feature to fill out some of the early and late times.
“For some of them, their favorite part was going to the college dining hall,” Ms Gerhardt added, laughing.
But the educational angle was both fun and a challenge at the same time.
“You didn’t have to be a math and science geek to enjoy it,” Ms. Gerhardt said. “If you were, the camp reinforced that. If you weren’t, it gave you an idea of what STEM was.”
Ms. Elder and Radez fourth-grade teacher Will Beekman organized much of the activities from their end, and when more kids than expected signed up, fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Haynes joined the effort. Teaching assistant Kristen Schel also helped out.
“We thought if a dozen or so kids, maybe 20, wanted to go, that would be great,” Mr. Barr said. “But we had 59 who signed up.”
Mr. Barr said he and C-R Superintendent Carl Mummenthey coordinated the local support.
The cost was $200 per student, and C-R used a School Improvement Grant––specifically for STEM study––to help with the tuition.
“We targeted kids who we thought would want to go but probably couldn’t afford it,” Mr. Barr said. “The response was phenomenal.”
SUNY Cobleskill also advertised the camp in a 50-mile radius and got responses from Canajoharie, Berne-Knox and Oneonta.
Ms. Gerhardt credited the camp’s success to the C-R teachers’ contributions.
“This was a brand-new idea, and we were all amazed,” she said.
“Really, the teachers did an incredible effort. They packed their classrooms in their cars and brought them here. We just had a lot of support from the school district.”
Helping out as camp counselors were high school students interested in science and math from C-R, Middleburgh and Schoharie, Ms. Gerhardt added.
Mr. Barr said there are plans for a similar camp next summer, maybe offering two sessions to accommodate more students.
“I like the fact that school doesn’t end when the formal year ends,” Mr. Barr said. “Education continues. It’s a good thing to keep kids working with their brains.”