Science is worth exploring with the Kiwanis Club

Julie Van Pelt building scientific confidence that lasts a lifetime

Julie Van Pelt building scientific confidence that lasts a lifetime

Vicki Baker

A basic human motivator is to understand “why.” Curiosity about the world around us, about what makes us tick, is the foundation of creativity, discovery and invention. The place to unlock the imagination is through “science camps” where students become junior scientists and embark on a series of science adventures. And such a camp exists in our very own community.

The McNair Science Camp is a fun-filled, science-based program facilitated by Denton ISD educators. The Kiwanis Club welcomed Julie Van Pelt, a 5th grade science teacher at McNair Elementary School, to its November 4 meeting and soon learned the important role science camps play in the lives of students as they explore scientific concepts in the great outdoors.

Julie graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in elementary education and an emphasis in early childhood development. A teacher for 11 years, she now teaches 5th grade science, her true passion. And out of that passion came McNair’s Science Camp, giving 5th graders the opportunity to start the day with experiential learning in engineering, earth sciences, weather and biology.

The McNair Science Camp encourages students to really explore science in all its hands-on, fun, goopy, messy, glory without the burden of textbooks, tests and homework. The program uses non-traditional teaching strategies focused on important science, technology and engineering concepts leaving students with skills they will use for the rest of their lives: how to be creative, how to collaborate and how to solve problems in new and innovative ways.

Studies show this informal learning environment is one of the most effective ways students learn science. By engaging students in outdoor learning experiences they are better prepared for higher level science education. Of those students who participated in the McNair Science Camps, 89% achieved a passing grade on district and state learning assessments; 26% of the students attained a grade of 90 or greater.

Unfortunately these camps are not free. And for many of McNair’s students this enrichment program would be financially out of reach if it were not for the generosity of the Kiwanis Club. The science camp accepts 120 students into its curriculum each year, and 80% of those participating benefit from these scholarships.

As the pace of scientific research accelerates we increasingly grapple with matters of science in our everyday lives. Science is a moving target, forever advancing and getting more complicated. Students participating in science camps possess an above average understanding of science while gaining the confidence and inspiration to embrace science in the future, thus ensuring American ingenuity continues to thrive in the hands of coming generations.

A knowledge and love of science is a great natural resource. Another is doing good works for the benefit of others. If you feel that rush of excitement when helping others, come join the Kiwanis Club every first and third Friday at 8:30 a.m. in the Clubhouse. For more information contact Jim Galbraith at [email protected]