By Collin Brooks
Summer is in full swing for most area students, but a select few Johnson City students found themselves back in the classroom at Northside Elementary.
Over 130 students were enrolled in the Johnson City School System’s STEAM Camp that was held last week. The second annual week-long camp grew from 90 students last year and had over 200 applicants that were interested in the camp.
The camp was available for rising 3-5th Johnson City School System students and had 10 Johnson City teachers and 19 Master’s level ETSU students taking the kids through a week of nine different activities. Those activities included robotics, circuits and electricity, drones, coding and kitchen chemistry to name a few.
Allowing children the opportunity to have fun with learning is something that always brings a smile to Northside principal Dr. Sharon Pickering.
“Seeing kids and students interact and be so enthusiastic about learning and collaborating, the collaboration is amazing,” she said. “They don’t know each other when they start the week, so they are building great friendships and great communication skills.”
Pickering and Dr. David Timbs were the coordinators for the summer camp and they got the idea to offer the students of Johnson City a way that they can interact with technology, math and science creatively during the summer.
“They’re getting to do so many things that they normally wouldn’t get to do,” Pickering said. “It’s a time when we can really dive into the curriculum and let them be creative with it.”
While kids were flying or driving drones and using iPads and other technology to solve problems, they were also using simple everyday objects to learn about technology of the future.
Indian Trail 6th grade teacher Randa Wilson taught students about engineering as they learned about five different types of bridges and the vocabulary that goes with trying to build a bridge.
Some of the things they learned revolved around tension and compression and that it was good for a bridge to have elements of both, so that it will be stronger, Wilson said.
The students built a bridge with 80 straws and Scotch tape and then they tested them. After they found their results, they were given a fake $10 to spend to purchase different items that could strengthen their bridge, like duct tape, popsicle sticks, paper clips, aluminum foil, newspaper and other sturdier items.
The students were judged on the strength of their bridge and how much they spent.
There is often a misconception when schools talk about using STEAM in the classroom that it revolves around technology, but Wilson said that while technology is important, getting the students to get their hands dirty is more important.
“I think it’s all about being hands on, because even people that are in construction, yes they have the technology part of it, but they are really using their hands,” Wilson said. “And they are really getting involved and thinking.”
Liberty Bell teacher Jordan Blackburn doesn’t get many opportunities to teach students while they are in elementary school and he said that he was extremely impressed with the way that the students wanted to get involved immediately and how quickly they picked up on everything.
The students at Blackburn’s stop used 3D printing to create their own items, having to find the dimensions and draft them out on a 3D program called TinkerCad.
The most popular item of the week was the fidget spinner, which meant students had to track down the perfect dimensions to make the toy spin.
Pickering and Blackburn mentioned that the students re-energize them every time that they come into the classroom, because they are so enthused to learn. Blackburn said that makes it an easy decision for him whether he wants to spend a week of his summer break back in the classroom.
“If they’re willing to put in the time and give up their summer break to get back into the classroom and back into the school and they want to learn something, I am here to help them,” Blackburn said. “Because I am going to have them in the future, so if we can get them better prepared now, they will be more advanced.”