For the first time, rising ninth grade students in Sampson County who love crunching numbers, doing experiments, and generally love learning will have the opportunity to take part in a special camp — STEM Camp — this summer at Sampson Community College.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, and for a week in June, participants will have fun exploring these areas.
“Each day different entities will come and do activities with the kids,” explained Becky Jackson, director of middle school education for Sampson County Schools.
According to Jackson, Sampson County Schools and Clinton City Schools will lead day one with Sampson County Schools providing activities in robotics and Clinton City Schools providing activities in digital game design.
Sampson Community College will take charge on day two with activities about genetics and DNA extraction.
Teachers from UNC-Wilmington will travel to Sampson County on day three to teach the students about probeware. They may also have students participate in science competitions.
NC State University and Sampson County’s Cooperative Extension will team up to teach students about agri-science on day four. Students will get out of the classroom and into the fields as they go on a field trip to a local research farm operated by NC State and the USDA where they will study the science and genetics of sweet potatoes and cucumbers.
“We didn’t want the kids to go on field trips and just see things. We want them to participate,” stressed Jackson. “It’s a very research-based camp. The kids will research, gather data, do experiments, analyze data, and problem solve. It’s going to be a fantastic week for them.”
“I think it’s great,” said 4-H youth development extension agent Amanda Bradshaw of offering the camp specifically to rising ninth graders. “Hopefully it will help open their eyes and get them looking at agri-science as a field to pursue. They will learn about the different kinds of agriculture there are and the research that is needed. Maybe it will set some of them working toward an agri-science major.”
To end the week, day five will be a half day and students will prepare short presentations to share with their parents, explaining what they have learned throughout their STEM Camp experience.
To participate in the STEM Camp, students must fill out an application. “The schools will choose who participates,” said Jackson, “and then submit their names to us. Five students will be chosen from Hobbton Middle, Union Middle, and Roseboro-Salemburg Middle. Six will be chosen from Midway Middle and Sampson Middle since they have somewhat bigger schools. There will be a total of 27 students who get to participate in the camp.”
“It’s for students who are truly interested in math and science. They don’t have to be the top student in the eighth grade; it’s interest we’re looking for,” continued Jackson about how students are considered and eventually selected. “One of the questions on the application is ‘Why do you want to participate in this camp?’ I think how they answer that will provide a lot of helpful feedback those in the schools who are selecting students.
Although it was initially going to cost students $40 to attend the camp if they were selected, the cost has been dropped and now the camp is free to participants.
“When our board met, they were so excited about the camp. They wanted to make sure that it was available to everyone so we decided to offer it for free,” noted Jackson. “We have secured sponsorships from Cape Fear Farm Credit, Star Telephone, and Lockamy/Tek Insurance. I think we are still going to have more too.”
“The whole purpose of the camp is to get students interested in math, science, and technology, especially these students going into high school,” explained Jackson. “Often when students enter high school, a lot do not know what they are interested in, what electives they would like to take. When they enroll, we want them to consider these types of classes. It’s really about raising awareness of these kinds of opportunities in high school and beyond and giving them the opportunity to discover if it’s something they are really interested in.”
The STEM Camp will be held June 24-27 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and June 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Lunches and t-shirts will be provided.
Students who are interested in participating in the STEM Camp need to contact their middle school guidance counselor for an application and more information.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.