Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

May is a great time to appreciate our teachers! This year let’s make it easy for all of us to honor and thank our educators for their hard work and dedication to teaching our kids. Teacher appreciation week is from May 8th to May 12th this year. Plenty of time to come up with ideas to show gratitude. Of course in my opinion 5 days out of the year is just not enough to celebrate our wonderful teachers. Let’s take this week and more to appreciate the hard work over the school year by coming up with ideas to honor them.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show appreciation. You can buy a small gift or even start by writing a thank you card, email, or record a video message. Saying just a simple thank you goes a long way!

I know here at Hope College we appreciate out students who are studying education. We have education majors spend an entire summer with us! Teaching our K-12 campers in a variety of different camps in June and July! Without them we would not be able to run our ExploreHope Summer Science programs.

Thank you to all of our educators in our community and beyond!

Celebrate Citizen Science Month!

It may be the month of April Fool’s Day, but it is no joke that it is also the month to celebrate Citizen Science! We are all invited to celebrate biodiversity with opportunities to do science, find community, and get out an explore the outdoors during this beautiful spring month. Scientists need people like you and me to help them develop innovative solutions. And to begin to think about science and the impacts it has on our lives everyday. The question is where do we begin? How can we make an impact on our world?

Whether you have knowledge of citizen science month or this is your first time learning about it; this year they are teaming up with SciStarter where you can view webinars, educational resources, and fun citizen science projects. Each week is a fun, new topic with great resources. From topics on challenges, such as pollution, climate change, habitat loss, or looking at the biological diversity such as plants, animals, and other organisms that live on our planet that help us survive.

At http://citizensciencemonth.org/ you can start to browse the event calendar on events online or in person! Take the next step and help make our world a better place! Make an impact and get outside to help your community. It starts with you.

ExploreHope Staff Stories: Step-Up

Soil test results at the Zeeland Wetlands! The goal was to analyze and have the same results across the groups because it being from the same location! We were practicing our analysis skills that day. We also tested Nitrogen and Potassium, not pictured.

Hello, my name is Evan Pepper, and I am one of the camp leaders for ExploreHope’s Summer Science Camps! I will be a Junior at Hope College this fall and am majoring in Secondary Special Education. This is my first summer working for ExploreHope, and it has been a blast so far! All the kids are amazing and have been so much fun to spend time with! 

In this post, I will be sharing my experience with Step-Up and their trip to ExploreHope this summer. During the time I spent with them, we gathered and analyzed soil from the field and worked on a separate literacy component to get the kids excited about reading over the Summer! One of my favorite activities in this camp was analyzing the soil we gathered from different locations and comparing the results. It was great practice and a fun way to provide many of the campers with their first-ever lab experience with multiple steps and fieldwork. Another great activity was our reading component, which was a literary analysis of A Wrinkle In Time! As a class, we read the book in many different ways, including popcorn reading and group reading.

One activity that the kids can do at home is just reading. Literacy is so important, especially for children. Creating a love of reading at a young age is so helpful for a child’s future! For example, we read A Wrinkle In Time and finished that book, then also provided the students with another book, Fish in a Tree, so that they will be able to continue reading when they leave camps. Another activity would be buying cheap soil testers from a place like Menards and testing the soil in a garden at home to see if it is good soil for the plants.

Again, this camp was great because we got to work on skills that will be useful for their future science classes as they continue through middle and high school. I am so happy that I was able to lead this camp, and also so proud of how much the campers were able to complete during the week! I love that we are able to provide these experiences to young students at ExploreHope summer camps.

ExploreHope Staff Stories: Science of Art

My name is Kate, and this week I had the joy of teaching Science of Art here at ExploreHope Science Camps. Throughout the week, we used science concepts like capillary action, hydrophobic and hydrophilic substances, and light/color, to make amazing art. Students got to explore how materials interact as they painted, created, and were encouraged to think outside the box. 

As we created projects during the week, students were able to keep their finished projects in anticipation of our Science of Art Exhibition at the end of the week. Families and friends were invited to come to our classroom where we had worked all week, where students were prepared by setting up all their finished work. Students could tell their friends and families how they created each piece of art and what the science behind each piece was.

Overall, this camp was a spectacular intersection between science and art. Students got creative, learned a lot, and were eager and enthusiastic about each and every project. 

ExploreHope Staff Stories: Harry Potter Camp

 Hi! My name is Annie Kuiper, this upcoming fall I will be a Junior here at Hope College. I am going into elementary special education with a focus on learning disabilities. Something that really excited me about camps was getting more experience about what it’s like to be working with kids in a classroom setting. I also thought that the camps were interesting and super unique. The first camp I led was the Harry Potter camp, I was extremely excited for this camp and to find out what it was all about. With no surprise, I absolutely loved it! One aspect of the camp is learning about herbology (the study of different plants). The other concepts we talk about and do activities with are learning spells, making potions, creating our wands, and learning about the different mythical creatures that the wizarding world has!

Some of my favorite memories from this camp were having owls come to the camp and seeing four different kinds of owls. These owls were so cute to look at and also interesting to hear about. Another popular thing that happened at camp was the quidditch tournament, the campers all got their very own broomstick and competed against the other houses for the grand prize. A fun home activity that you can do with your family is making a mandrake! We learned about mandrakes on herbology day. To make a mandrake, all you need to do is get a small clay pot, a sheer nylon sock, fast seed grow, soil, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and glue. Put the fast seed grow in first, then soil, tie it off, and put the nylon in the pot with the fast grow seed facing up. The pipe cleaners are to make a smiley face or whatever your heart desires! Googly eyes are for the eyes— some like to add more than two :). This activity is fun for the kids to make and also a cute plant to have in your house! When the plant grows it will grow out of the top of the nylon, making the mandrake look like it has hair. To keep your mandrakes hair nice and neat make sure to keep it watered, just enough to make it damp but not too much to drown it, and then snip its hair to keep it clean.

ExploreHope Staff Stories: Cool Critters and Crawlies

Hi there! My name is Ellie Johnston and this is my first year on the ExploreHope staff! I will be a junior in the fall studying Early Childhood Education. These camps have been the highlight of my summer, watching the campers jump out of their cars every day eager to start. Nothing brings me more joy than watching the campers proudly show their finished crafts.

This past week I led the Cool Critters and Crawlies camp, also known as Bug Camp! We spent the week learning about different common bugs, why we need bugs, and how to make our own bug habitats! Since it is bug camp, each day ended with some bug catching outside Schaap Science Center and Centennial Park! Most campers went home with a few worms, a spider if they were lucky, and about 10 roly-polys each!

One of my favorite parts of camp was bee day! Campers learned all about the pollination process as well as pretended to be bees and pollinated other campers’ flowers! Campers were very excited to make their own bee hive and then share a sweet honey treat! While bee day was a great hit, it was clear the campers loved butterfly day! Each camper made a unique butterfly using watercolors and clothespins. We did a gallery walk so campers were able to see how different colors blended together. As a fun way to carry their butterfly home, we made butterfly feeders! The parents were given a recipe for how to make nectar to attract butterflies to their yard.
What I loved about this camp is how much fun the campers had digging in the dirt and hunting for new bugs. Every day ended with the campers covered in mud and a big smile on their face. This camp is filled with activities that are easy for any guardian to help with and help grow a bug lover’s knowledge! I am very grateful for this job and everything I will continue to learn throughout these camps!

ExploreHope Staff Stories: Roller Coaster Camp

Welcome back lovely scientists to the STEM@Home blog. My name is Lucy and I was in charge of leading a camp with ExploreHope this year. I will be a senior at Hope majoring in Elementary Education and I am really looking forward to working with kids in the camp. It has been so exciting to be able to spend this valuable time with the campers. I led Roller Coaster camp and the kids had so much fun inventing and discovering new ideas through creating, working together, and using their imagination to put together original inventions. They had me on a roller coaster of emotions. 

In this camp, campers are given freedom. We set up certain activities and products they needed to create. However, we didn’t give them steps or any type of strict guidelines. This camp is all about them discovering and creating something that they made on their own. We also helped them learn new ideas and terms that will help them recognize science all around them. We introduced them to the science in their world.

There were so many wonderful memories created. One has to be when the kids were challenged with balancing a lever. They had to put certain items on one end and balance it with crayons on the other. They had so much fun trying to decide how many they needed. They even started putting their own items on one end, like sunglasses, and measuring those. Another was when they made chain reactions. They had fun finding a way to complete a task that wasn’t direct. They had fun trying to find a way of making a simple machine work as well. They worked together well and had such amazing ideas of how to make them work. They had so much fun with it.

One activity that they and I both loved which is quite simple was a marshmallow catapult. This is an activity that we did when the kids were learning about kinetic and potential energy. They were able to build their own catapult and shoot a marshmallow to see how far it would go. The used rubber bands, tape, popsicle sticks, spoons, and a small marshmallow. I had a certain model that they could use for an idea. However, I could only make it go high and not far. They needed to solve that on their own with their own model. The model I had was three popsicle sticks stacked on top of each other and had a rubber band at each end. Then I would pull it back and show potential energy and how it could become kinetic. Overall, campers had many great opportunities in Roller Coaster camp to practice their problem-solving, invention, and creativity skills, all while making new friends and expanding their love of science!

ExploreHope Staff Stories: Art in Nature


My name is Megan McCormick, and I am working at Explore Hope Science Camp this summer! I am a recent Hope graduate with a degree in Elementary Education. I will be teaching third-grade at West Ottawa this fall! I was excited to return to science camp this summer because I love how camp provides children the opportunity to explore scientific concepts while having tons of fun doing it!


This summer, I had the privilege of teaching a camp called Art in Nature where campers were able to learn the science behind nature/the world around us while creating awesome nature based crafts. We explored topics such as light waves/how we see color, photosynthesis, the lifecycle of plants/fruit, cholorphyll, nature self-portariats, 2D/3D art, mineral and crystal formation, camoflouge, and so much more! We had the opportunity to visit the animal museum and even got to look at real crystals from the Geology department! 

Each morning, the campers arrived excited and ready to create each day! We created various crafts including sun catchers, natural paints and paint brushes, clay bowls, seed landscape portraits, fish tesselations, UV light flowers, fruit stamps, and more! We got to explore both the scientific concepts as well as art elements such as patterns and texture! 

One of my favorite crafts that we made were nature based sun catchers! This is a simple and fun craft you can make at home! First, cut a circle out of the middle of the paper plate. Then, buy some contact paper from a craft store. Once you cut out the contact paper to fill in the circle, add nature items to the middle such as leaves or flowers! Lastly, use a hole puncher to make a hole on the top and tie a string through it. You can hang it up in your house! This fun craft can remind kids about the process of photosynthesis and how leaves “capture” the sunlight to help them create oxygen and glucose! 

I had so much fun leading this camp, and the campers had a blast too! Campers got to be artists and scientists and had the opportunity to explore, create, and most of all, have fun! 

ExploreHope Staff Stories: Video Game Making

Hello, my name is Sean Dummer and I am going to be a freshman at Hope this fall. I will be majoring in Environmental Science and plan to minor in computer science. I am very excited to work with this year’s campers!

Video Game Making Camp is a camp based around learning the very early stages of coding. The program that we use to bring camper’s video game ideas to life is called Scratch. When you go into Scratch you are faced with a blank area and a list of command blocks that you can use to make the character or sprite do what you want it to do. You can make it move via the arrow keys, you can make it move with your mouse, and you can even add timers and scores! You can try it out yourself at https://scratch.mit.edu/ 

It is a very exciting camp for the campers to learn the basics of coding. If they are really passionate about what they learn, then they can participate in  more coding camps offered by ExploreHope like Python and Inventing in 3D. 

The biggest thing I learned from teaching this camp is how important it is to have a good working relationship with all the lead and assistant teachers during camps. It was very helpful when I had to keep track of 24 smaller campers and had a few extra pairs of eyes that could help me out in that regard. I am learning something new every week and I am grateful for my assistants.

ExploreHope Staff Stories: Diving Deeper into Dissection

Hello everyone! My name is Ashley Lauraine and this is my sixth year working at the Explore Hope Science Camps. I will be a sophomore at Hope next year and will be majoring in Biology along the Pre-Veterinary track. I absolutely adore these camps and love watching the campers’ eyes light up when an experiment is a success or their craft turns out just perfect! I am so excited to share with you one of my all-time favorite camps to participate in!

This week I led Diving Deeper into Dissection! Dissection is one of my passions and I love being able to share this with my campers. I even took this same camp when I was their age! This camp covers the anatomy of different organisms, including the squid, dogfish shark, leopard frog, pigeon, and fetal pig. The primary focus of this camp was to allow the kids to explore the in-depth anatomy of the specimens and learn more about comparative physiology between the different classes of the animal kingdom. 

One of my favorite parts of the week was the dissection of the fetal pig. The entire class was interested as I explained how each organ in the pig interacted with the full animal. They also were very excited when I allowed them to take out and unwind the digestive system. We did this with each of our specimens over the course of the week and compared the length and organ make-up of each one. 

Another highlight of the week was the shark stomach dissection. Many of our dogfish sharks had undigested or partially digested food in their stomach and the campers had the opportunity to open them and try to identify what was inside. We found lots of krill and even a partially digested reptile/amphibian that was identified because we found an intact 3-chamber heart and some pieces of intestine!

Dissection is a difficult activity to do at home, but with the right materials, it can be done. Dissection pans and tools can be purchased off of Amazon for less than $30 and the smaller specimens, like a rat or individual organs like a sheep brain or heart, can be purchased for as low as $15. With careful supervision, dissection can be an at-home activity that can teach your camper about the amazing subjects of anatomy and physiology!