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Extreme Enrichment Volume Two

Article by Stacey Susinno
Director, Extreme STEAM Science Kids Camp
Intro by Bob Budah, Owner and Creator of Extreme STEAM Science Kids at Park Shore
We are extremely proud to be celebrating 60 years of excellence and greatly appreciate the confidence that thousands of families have exhibited by being part of our Wonderful World. Our mission has always been to help children grow in a positive way by learning new skills, creating friendships while building strong self esteem and confidence in a safe and nurturing environment. For this reason we want to discuss the importance of 21st Century Skills (Critical Thinking, Collaborative Teamwork, Creativity and Adaptability) and what it means for children growing up in today’s world. More than ever before the pace of life has accelerated to a speed that creates constant decision making. The technology industry continues to give us new instruments to perform a multitude of functions that constantly change. Social media has some benefits, but also has many dangers that our children might not understand. In addition, social media has taken away the human aspect of socialization and in its place put a virtual reality. We need to help children understand that they live in a real world with real life scenarios that include people of all demographics and mindsets.
These scenarios come with the good and the bad. We need to give them the tools to make appropriate decisions when they are faced with the unknown or the uncomfortable. CHANGE is the key concept that needs to be understood and what we can do with our children to better prepare them for their future. It is important that children are given the opportunity to make decisions based on age appropriate situations. They need to be given the opportunity to think and come up with their own conclusions when asked a question. For example, when approaching a toll booth they can be asked which lane should be taken and then why? We understand in an instant that fewer cars means less time or EZ Pass means there will be less of a wait. We understand those concepts from years of experience, but children need to develop those skills. The questions that are asked or the situations that parents present to their children should be age appropriate and structured where there is guidance given, but not the answer. It is okay to be wrong because that is how we learn. How a child learns to find the correct answer is the process we are talking about. The physical world is very important and how a child learns by doing will give them a strong foundation for their future success. They should be given opportunities at home where they will be doing an age appropriate physical task. It could be cooking, gardening, cleaning their room or walking the dog. In this manner they can be asked questions that would make them THINK. This is the essence and purpose of any exercise given to them. For example, if we had a recipe that made six cupcakes they could be asked, “What would you need to make twelve cupcakes”? Yes, this is a math question, but also a thinking question. By giving children the opportunity to perform and think they are building 21st century skills needed in the fast paced, technological world they are growing up in.
You might have heard that the new science standards are in the works for NY. What does this mean for you and your child and what does this have to do with enrichment? The real change in standards is not so much in content but in the delivery. Someone somewhere noticed that the joy and wonder of science somewhat diminishes around middle school- usually around when students see the subject as just another test to pass. The idea, now, is for teachers to deliver science in a way that makes it meaningful in the real world setting and also keeps it full of the amazement the younger children find with exploration . By experiencing science and discovery with your child, you are instilling the wonder, therefore making it harder for disenchantment to happen later. Yes, I know. Your child is way too cool to do science with their parents. Mine too. Don’t tell them what you’re doing. Make it a scavenger hunt and a fun uncovering of the world around them. That’s really what science is anyway. Isn’t it? The new standards are all about finding wonder in the world, explaining it using science and supporting claims with real-world data that students are collecting themselves.
What better way to do this than a walk in the woods? When I designed a hike challenge for my Pre-k-and 2nd grade nieces and nephew, I wanted to “science-up” our usual walk in the park. I found pictures on the internet, or took pictures of living things I saw there and made a chart with them. I assigned each item points. If it was something that was commonly found was assigned 5 points, something a little harder to find-10 points and if it was something I have only seen once or twice, I made it 15 points. I printed out the chart and they kept a tally sheet of what they saw and how many times they saw it. I made sure they knew not to touch, pick or take anything, except pictures. The kids were motivated to walk, were collecting data and learning a little bit about what they saw. They felt like pioneers. They were using their observation skills of not only seeing but comparing, quantifying, examining, listening, and making hypotheses. They were wondering. Some of the questions they asked were: “Why are there so many Cabbage White butterflies and not as many Monarch butterflies. Where does the Chipmunk live? Why do mushrooms look different in this place than they look at my house?”
For older children, have them make the challenge-chart. You may want to make it a contest in groups of friends. A really fun app to use is Leaf Snap, where children can use the phone camera to identify plants. They might want to take pictures instead of recording tally marks. Later on, they can make a picture collage using any one of the many free collage apps. I know my own children ascribe to the fact that it didn’t happen unless it’s on Instagram or Snapchat. Have kids create social media challenges with their friends (supervised of course). Create a hashtag for your particular hunt. For showing data, have children create a bar graph of how many different plants or animals they saw. Have them surmise why one species is more abundant than others. Have them visit again during a different season or time of day and make conclusions about similarities and differences. Have them video tape themselves asking the woods questions and then you can do some research at home and make videos of the child answering his or her own questions. iMovie, and movie maker are no-fuss and easy video editing tools for children to use to splice the questions and answers together. This is not only a fun way of enriching your child’s scientific mind, it is also a fun way to spend time together!
After nine years of successfully running Extreme Steam Science Kids we have found that developing 21st century Skills through project based learning children develop the ability to appreciate the world around them and to make sound decisions. We started with twenty nine students and now have over eighty and growing. We are expanding our program to include 6th through 9th grade students because there is a strong need and demand for these types of programs. We are also proud to say that Extreme Steam is the leader in the camp industry when it comes to STEAM education.
It remains our pleasure to offer helpful thoughts when it comes to benefiting children and their future success.
Click below if you’d like to see the scavenger hunt I made for my nieces and nephew and stay tuned for more from Extreme Enrichment!