Stranded on an island, all that lies between you and safety is a nice cozy space to call your own. While (thankfully) none of the students in the Step Up summer camp had to act out the terror of being stranded, they were able to imagine what it’d be like in their reading of Hatchet and their construction of their own little shelters. When I came by this week the students were hard at work with glue guns and popsicle sticks, piecing together a shelter they hoped would weather the elements.
These kids weren’t building randomly, though. Earlier in the day two teachers, sponsored by ExploreHope’s Summer Science Camps program, had walked the students through the theory / math behind how to build a good shelter. After learning about the nuts and bolts, students then practiced their math and engineering skills by mocking up their own precision design on paper. It wasn’t until all that was done that they set to work building structures that tomorrow would be tested by the elements. Only time would tell if their shelters could stand up to spray bottle storms and hand powered earthquakes.
As the kids were working to tackle these challenges, I took a couple aside to ask what made this program special. Just watching the kids build and interact with the teachers and mentors made it obvious that something meaningful was happening, but I wanted to get a sense of how the students felt. The students, both in Junior High, both loved the continued adult attention they got here at camp. However, here students are ungraded and because of this, feel free to experiment and make mistakes. The social group work and hands on application at the end of every day was a pleasant change from school, where fun activities occur only every once and awhile.
That said, it was exciting to hear that in part because of Step Up, both kids want to come to Hope to continue their schooling when the time comes. Being around Hope’s campus allowed them to see what Hope (and college in general) had to offer and their exposure to Hope students as teachers and mentors gave them models. Perhaps one day they will join the many other students who have gone from Science Camper to Hope Student.