KOKOMO, Ind. — More than 80 children splashed in a creek, played sand volleyball, made crafts, wore silly costumes for a play, fired rockets, and had long talks at summer camps at Indiana University Kokomo.
But these weren’t your typical summer camps — while they provided hours of fun, they also offered hands-on learning opportunities in health and wellness, philosophy, and science.
From June 11 to June 15, faculty and students hosted three camps — Think, Imagine, Create (TIC), led by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences; Fit Camp, with the School of Nursing; and Science Rocks!, drawing on the expertise of the School of Sciences.
Joshua Mugg, lecturer of philosophy, and Joe Keener, associate professor of English, planned the inaugural TIC camp to promote the idea that learning is fun, while modeling reasoning and creative skills.
The six middle schoolers gathered for discussion each morning, which spring boarded them into planning and writing a play for the end of the week.
On one day, they started by watching a movie clip, showing an actor attempting to take direction from a director who only speaks Japanese, with an interpreter translating into English. That led to talk about why there are different languages, what can be lost in translation, and what is a language versus a dialect.
Matthew Mitchell, a seventh grader from Northwestern Middle School, said he learned how to evaluate information by attending the program.
“I learned that there are different ways to think about things, and that what someone says might not be true,” he said. That was part of the point of the week, said Mugg.
“I hope they now believe they can be creative, and they can think through hard things using reason, and by talking about it, rather than just believing what they believe,” he said.
In the afternoons, about 20 middle school scientists learned about ecology, biology, chemistry, microbiology, geology, health sciences, and astronomy, at the annual Science Rocks! camp.
Sixth graders Arianna Hall and Aramaea Fivecoate, Central Middle School, and Bella Perez, Northwestern Middle School, enjoyed hands-on field work at Jackson Morrow Park, and were excited to find 36 crayfish in the Wildcat Creek.
They collected water samples and evaluated the stream water by kick netting to catalog and count invertebrate life in the water. In the Hunt Hall lab, they learned about physical health, evaluated their own heart rates and vision, and built and fired rockets, drawing on the School of Sciences faculty’s expertise.
Fivecoate would like to be an astronomer, and was especially interested in building and firing her rocket. She thinks more students would be interested in science careers if they attended the camp.
“They want to be football stars, or actors or models, they don’t want to be scientists,” she said. “If more kids could see what it’s like to be a scientist, they would want to be one.”
At Jackson Morrow Park, nursing students taught lessons in nutrition, and led more traditional camps activities, such as games and crafts. Student athletes also led sports drills in volleyball, tennis, cross country, and basketball. In its 21st year, the School of Nursing camp hosted its largest student group ever, with 61 children, ages 6 to 12, registered.
The counselors are nursing students, who learn skills in managing pediatric patients by leading group of children though the daily activities, and creating and teaching lessons based on the MyPlate curriculum.
“We have to do some changes to our lesson plans after the first day,” said Heather Downey, a junior from Buffalo. “We learned they are very energetic and competitive, and they don’t like activities where they are sitting. We had to improvise to make it more engaging for them.”
She noted that many of the campers have attended before, and return each year because it’s fun.
Junior counselor Elizabeth Lytle, 13, has attended every year since she was six. The camp began as a program for children with diabetes or asthma, and evolved to focus on general health and wellness, to fight back against childhood obesity.
Lytle, from Central Middle School, has diabetes, and first came to camp to learn how to manage her condition. Now, she provides valuable first-hand knowledge about diabetes to the nursing students, and also helps with younger campers.
“I show the counselors how I check my blood, and explain how my pump works,” she said. “I can tell them what it feels like when my blood sugar is low. They can learn from me what to watch for if they have a patient with diabetes.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.