There were drones in the hallway and robots in the classroom, marshmallow toasting in hand-made solar ovens and painstaking stop motion animation, as the Westfield Public School District’s STEM Camp concluded a 7th successful summer session on Friday, July 26.
Begun in 2013 with 6 workshops and 150 campers, STEM Camp now offers 15 workshops for more than 400 students in grades 3-8. Course offerings during the three week camp include beginning and advanced robotics, film scoring, cryptology, mechanical engineering, laser engraving, stop motion animation, computer-aided design/3-D printing, and much more.
“I feel the growing popularity of the camp has been due to, not only the fact that we have amazing instructors, but that the kids and parents of Westfield see the value behind hands-on, problem-based learning,” says camp director Sean Bonasera, who teaches industrial technology at Edison. “Parents recognize how this type of learning engages and strengthens the mind at a different level than traditional learning while also exposing their children to skills, resources, and technology that they will one day utilize in a future career.”
STEM Camp was launched in 2013 after a STEM committee -- which included Bonasera and Edison computer technology teacher Laura Paiva, along with other district technology education teachers and district administrators -- designed a program of activities to promote awareness of careers that integrate the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.
“Our goal is to appeal to all types of interests, so we offer over 10 always-changing workshops for students to choose from. Each offers an insight into a real-world skill or career, but they are also engaging and fun for their particular age group,” says Paiva. “Instructors hope to create a spark that will encourage our campers to continue to be thoughtful and creative. It's great when we see return campers who remember what they learned last year, and apply it to what they are doing this year.”
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Programs Paul Pineiro says campers learn by trial and error while directing their own activities.
“They feel free to fail which is an important part of the learning process,” Pineiro says.
Pineiro and Bonasera meet each summer at the end of the camp to review the feedback from teachers and families to help determine what courses to offer the following year.
“Visiting STEM Camp is a highlight of my summer,” adds Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan. “I love seeing our students working collaboratively and creatively to approach a challenge.”
More STEM Camp photos can be found at this link.