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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 19, 2018

Extension office hosts summer camps

By Courtesy of Rachel Wonderlich | Aug 10, 2018
Courtesy of: RACHEL WONDERLICH Adult volunteer Jaclyn McLard helps youth participant Tula Sorflaten with her posture while shooting a bow and arrow during STEM Investigation Destination Week at the Jefferson County Extension Office.

Jefferson County Extension has been a popular spot for children to spend a summer afternoon or even a whole day learning … and having fun while they’re at it!

ISU Extension and Outreach has been hosting summer day camps since June, and it’s got one more left. In late July, the extension office hosted its second annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Investigation Destination Week.



Over the course of four days, 11 classes were taught by educators from various organizations, colleges and universities to engage youth in high-quality, hands-on education. Each class related to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics field and exposed youth to potential careers for their future.

A total of 80 youth were reached throughout the week. Ashtin Walker, youth outreach educator, commented on the week’s success, “It’s cool to see how many kids we reach in and beyond Jefferson County. We had kids from surrounding counties and even one from Wisconsin who happened to be visiting her grandma who lives here. It’s nice to be able to reach all these kids and educate them about STEM.”

Kindergarten through third-graders participated in LEGO Robotics and two different classes of STEM Lit-to-Go. The robotics class taught participants how to work in teams to create a LEGO structure and then code it using a program application to make different parts of the structure move. STEM Lit-to-Go incorporated hands-on STEM activities with literacy. Each topic had a book correlated with the activity that taught them more about the subject.


Older kids

Youth who just completed their fourth- through eighth-grade year were the target audience of the camps and had more options to choose from. On Monday of that week, they could choose from Outdoor Adventures, FLEx and Chemistry. The FLEx class was taught by an instructor from Iowa State University and involved technology such as virtual reality, 3D printing, building a sound board and more. On Tuesday, participants learned about Crime Spy Science and how to be a real detective. This class was taught by Angie Pohren, a Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputy.

There were two classes offered on Wednesday: Junk Drawer Robotics was taught by the 4-H Robotics group, while Learn, Eat, Grow was taught by the extension office’s horticulturist and utilized its on-site raised garden beds. On Thursday, youth participated in Math Games and Cooking Up Creations. The cooking class was led by instructors and college students from the Indian Hills Culinary Arts department. They made chicken fajitas and fruit tacos in the morning and then had a cake decorating contest in the afternoon.

“Offering a week of camps with such a niche focus is exciting because it teaches youth a specific skill set and knowledge base that will ultimately help them no matter what career they choose,” said Rachel Wonderlich, Jefferson County Youth Coordinator. “Studies show that STEM careers are growing and we want to prepare these youth for those potential careers. These camps have the intention of teaching those specific skills, but also providing exposure to the wide range of options as they think about their future.”

To keep the youth participants full of energy and focused on learning, the Fairfield Community School District provided lunch to participants every day through their summer feeding program.

Summer day camps

In June, the extension office kicked off the summer with a day camp for fourth through eighth graders called “Quest to Be Your Best.” The class helped them find what sparks their interest. Participants made stress balls to help manage their emotions. They decided to turn it into a community service project and made extra stress balls to give to the clients through Optimae.

The next camp, “Passport to Adventure” encouraged the kindergarten through third grade students to discover other cultures and how they are different, but also very similar, to the students’ own culture. They travelled around the world in one day and experienced culture through food, dance, facts, games, crafts, and music.

July began with a “Movin’ to the Beat” day camp for kindergarten through third graders. This camp incorporated music, various sounds and the science of hearing. The Iowa State University insect zoo also made a special appearance with a variety of insects and taught the participants about the sounds of bugs.

The older group came to the “Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse” day camp in July. This camp was a fun twist on emergency preparedness and taught the participants about a wide spectrum of natural disasters. They also were able to create their own first aid kit and worked together as a team to create a zombie-proof house.

Most recently, the younger group (K-3) attended a “Frontier Living” day camp earlier this month. Participants learned about how to make their own butter and soap, the transportation challenges that faced families in that time period, and the simplicity of games that pioneer children played.


Chance to make friends

Ashtin Walker has taught the hands-on and experiential day camps this summer.

“For me, it’s fun to see the kids open up throughout the day and make friends,” Walker said. “They start off really shy and by the end of the day, they’re a completely different person. You can just tell that they’re having fun with all of their new friends.”

Summer is quickly coming to an end, but the extension office has one more opportunity for youth to get in on the fun. “Monarchs on the Move” day camp will be offered on from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 21 for youth that have completed grades 4-8. In this camp, students will need to get food as a caterpillar, make a chrysalis, and fly to find habitat to live in as an adult. Kids will learn about the biology and importance of the monarch butterfly and how they are in danger. The camp is $5 per participant and includes lunch. Registration is due by Aug. 14, and can be done online at http://bit.ly/jeffersoncountycamps.

“We always enjoy working with the kids over their summer break and being part of their education to help prevent the summer brain drain,” said Wonderlich. “This summer, we have worked with over 125 youth and are pleased to be able to offer these programs to the families in our community. We are especially grateful to the Fairfield Community School District for providing lunches for youth participants at all of our summer camps.”

Once the summer camps wrap up, youth can remain involved through the largest positive youth development program: 4-H. 4-H programs provide opportunities for youth to develop skills they can use now and throughout their life. For more information regarding the summer day camps or Jefferson County 4-H, contact Wonderlich at 472–4166 or via email at rachel4h@iastate.edu.

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