A new science summer camp for grades four through six at Bristol Consolidated School is using fun activities to give young students a head start on science.
Eight students will meet each Thursday in July, with activities led by science teacher Kevin Crafts. The activities, from 4-H National Youth Science Day booklets, range from building robots and rockets to understanding solar power, with other key STEM subjects integrated into the activities.
Bristol School Committee Chairman and former BCS Principal David Kolodin, a former science teacher, brought the idea to Crafts after hearing about Whitefield using the 4-H booklets for after-school activities. Kolodin thought of using the booklets for a summer camp instead.
“What we hope will happen is younger ones say, ‘hey, this is pretty good!’ and will want to pursue science,” said Kolodin.
Crafts, who teaches science for grades five through eight at BCS, said it is also a good opportunity for him to meet his future students.
“I’m still adjusting to working with younger kids, though,” said Crafts.
For the first class, students created small robots using a toothbrush head and small pager motor, similar to those that make cellphones vibrate. The vibration on the light bristles of the toothbrush head causes the robots to fly easily across a smooth surface and turn around when they strike an obstacle.
The students then had to separate into two groups and use the robots to clean up an “oil spill” on a placemat. The trick was to keep the robot within a line surrounding the oil spill so as to clean up as much debris as possible in two minutes. They could only touch the robot five times throughout the two minutes if it got stuck or fell over, so students had to build their barriers wisely.
Titled the “Eco-Bot Challenge” by 4-H, the experiment is a popular one for its integration of robotics, physics, problem-solving, teamwork, environmental awareness, and even mathematics, when the kids have to calculate how much of the oil (rice) was cleaned up on their mat.
Despite the scientific problems involved, Crafts said it’s the trial and error of science that can be the most challenging for students to learn.
“The hardest part was the double tape (for building the eco-bots) – we couldn’t get the backing off,” said Crafts with a laugh.
The students then had to brainstorm with Crafts to figure out another solution. In the end, duct tape saved the eco-bots.
Since the camp is open to a range of grades, students also get the opportunity to work with students who have different knowledge levels and skill sets.
Crafts said he knows some students prefer working alone to group activities, but teamwork is vital in science. “It can be challenging, but it’s important to learn how to work with people,” he said.
The students spent the last half-hour of the session building the barrier with an array of tools, ranging from plastic cups to straws to pieces of paper.
“So what happens if it falls over or goes over the line? Do you give up because you failed?” said Crafts as the students strategized.
“No, you keep trying!” said student Jillian Chadwick.
The students ran out of time before getting to test their eco-bots, but will continue the activity on Thursday, July 14 to find out which group’s barrier was the most successful.
“This really is a great opportunity to jump on something to expand their knowledge and interest and, of course, develop a relationship with their future science teacher,” said parent Wendy Arzate. Her twin boys, Josh and Logan, are enrolled in the camp.
Crafts said that with schools focusing primarily on math and reading with younger students, he thinks it’s a great way to expose younger kids to science.
“We want to keep science interesting and alive,” said Crafts.
The summer science camp meets each Thursday in July from 9-11:30 a.m. There are currently four slots open and students aren’t required to attend each session. The camp is free of charge.
“Parents just have to provide a ride and snacks,” said Crafts.
For more information or to sign up, email Crafts at firstname.lastname@example.org or find Bristol Consolidated School Science on Facebook.