STEM Camp keeps local kids learning through summer

Crystal Vanark guides two kids through a comparison of their M&M data. (Photo contributed)
Crystal Vanark guides two kids through a comparison of their M&M data. (Photo contributed)

Two St. Cloud State University students partnered with a Becker school teacher to create a unique learning opportunity for local students this summer.

The trio created a Summer STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Camp, held in Becker and Monticello during the middle of the summer. The camp was held once a week for four weeks, with each class lasting approximately two hours. Brittney Topliff, one of the three camp leaders and a student at SCSU, said the idea was to keep kids engaged during the summer months.

“It’s really important for parents to get their kids out there and keep their minds active,” said Topliff.

Topliff ran the camp with fellow SCSU student Crystal Vanark, as well as Sue Block, a seventh-grade math teacher at Becker.

Topliff had known Block since her school days, and thought this camp would be a good opportunity for her and Vanark to work on their teaching skills, while helping to keep kids’ minds sharp through the summer.

The camp was held for nine to 13 year olds, and approximately 30 kids attended between the two camps. The Monticello camp met at Ellison Park, which allowed the teachers to embrace the outdoors in their lesson plan. Students created creatures during the program, based on a random environment they chose from a hat, and also partook in a scavenger hunt through the park to learn about different relationships in nature.

The kids also made, painted, and raced wooden cars during the course, to explore the scientific method and potential energy.

Topliff, who like Vanark is set to be a junior at SCSU this fall, said they expect to hold the course again next summer.

“We got really positive feedback,” she said, adding that they had a diverse range of students this summer. “A lot of parents want kids to attend again next year.”

Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]