MANSFIELD – Nearly 50 Mansfield elementary school girls spent this week catching crawfish, holding millipedes and learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Ohio State University at Mansfield and the Mansfield City Schools teamed to organize the first Springmill Summer STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Camp for Girls from Monday, July 17 to Friday, July 21 at the Springmill Learning Center, 1200 Nestor Drive, Mansfield.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect because we haven’t done it before, but every single one of them are … trying the experiments,” said Christina Drain, OSU-Mansfield outreach coordinator for the mathematics-literacy initiative. “The girls have been really engaged all week.
"They really take it seriously and are thinking about the activities.”
The 4th through 6th graders attend the camp from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. every day. They hear from guest speakers and participate in interactive activities led by three OSU graduates and one current student, who is studying education. All the speakers are female.
“We want the girls to start thinking about a career,” Drain said. “We are trying to hit those formative years when they are deciding what they want to do.”
Thursday evening, Laura Burns, Ohio organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, spoke to an attentive group of girls. Another evening, a veterinarian spoke to the students. Drain recalls that about half the group raised their hands with questions following that presentation.
The day-campers spend most of the evening split in four groups, working with former and current OSU education students, who serve as teachers.
Christina Phelps, a recent graduate, teaches forensics. The girls take fingerprints and use clues to determine who’s done something.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity for these kids to experience,” she said.
Another teacher, Morgan McDowell is studying to become a math and science teacher. She’s taken the students down to a nearby creek to learn about aquatic life.
“Not everybody has the opportunity to do something like that,” she said.
Drain noted that attendance has been impressive. Out of 53 registered campers, 46 have shown up regularly.
“We get to build and experience,” said Lynna Mabe, 9.
Amber Parker, 8, has enjoyed the projects.
“I like that we get to do fun stuff,” Parker said.
The camp was supported by a grant through the Richland County Foundation Women’s Fund.
It will finish up Friday, July 21 with a family event. Parents will join their children for kitchen chemistry activities.
Adrienne Hopson, supervisor for the camp, developed its curriculum. She focused on choosing interactive projects related to the STEM subjects.
“The wheels are already turning for next year,” Hopson said.