Fresno State summer camp teaches kids about STEM

The Fresno BeeJuly 4, 2014 

Getting elementary school kids to spell "entrepreneurial" or "innovation" is difficult. Getting them to learn robotics troubleshooting and physics skills is even more daunting.

But a summer camp through Fresno State is doing just that -- teaching them STEM skills in a way that's fun.

The curriculum at Kids Invent! summer camp is based on making kindergartners through sixth-graders more interested in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by using a hands-on approach.

"It's all about creativity and thinking outside the box," said Casey Lamonski, education outreach program director at the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State. "We are giving (students) information and education in such a way that they don't think they're sitting in a classroom."

There are 11 classes offered including a toy-making workshop, robotics and digital video, with the last two being the most popular. Students learn these skills in the Lyles Center or in science classrooms on the Fresno State campus.

"What's happening right now with our youth is they are immersed in technology," said Lamonski. "Over the summer they lose stuff. That's why summer programs are so important."

There are more than 200 children enrolled already, but the program is only about 75% full, according to Lamonski.

"Our real draw is that we let them do things here that they're not allowed to do at home," said camp instructor Jeff Grunau before dropping Mentos into a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke.

The group of kids yelled in excitement, but were quickly disappointed when six Mentos in a bottle of soda didn't make a bigger explosion.

"That's lame," the kids shouted at the bubbling.

The sugar explosion was to teach chemical reactions to kids age 5 to 8. Earlier in the day, the kids bent wire to make bubble wands, learning the word "tension" and that heart-shaped wands don't necessarily mean heart-shaped bubbles, to one girl's dismay.

"We have to whisper the word 'learning' here," said camp manager Dakota Smith, "because they don't realize they're doing it."


Kids Invent!

What: Classes last one week, Monday to Friday, and run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. through Aug. 8; maximum 30 students per class

Cost: $325 to $375 per class; includes two snacks per day and a T-shirt

Details: For more information or to enroll a student, go to www.KidsInventCA.com

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6279, htraceynoren@fresnobee.com or @HtraceyNoren on Twitter.

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