Story by Tamyra Horst
Building machines while working with the concept of hydraulics. Exploding pipettes with dry ice. Making key chains using 3-D pens and observing the 3-D printers in action. Understanding how salt depresses the melting point of ice while creating an ice cream treat. Field trips to Washington, D.C., New York City and Hershey, Pa. Blue Mountain Academy’s (BMA) STEAM Summer Camp got kids exploring, discovering, examining and creating through science, technology, engineering, art and math.
“What’s really exciting about STEAM Camp as an educator is watching campers become more confident with experimentation, manipulation and observation of scientific phenomena,” shares Rose Bechtel, science teacher at BMA. “It’s exhilarating to see the ‘light’ shine in their eyes when they grasp a concept or skill. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, because the ‘Eureka’ moment is expressed on each face similarly!”
More than 100 students attended the two-week summer camp. Each day began with a character thought and ended with a campfire. In between, students learned critical thinking skills, created art, figured out clues in an escape room, had the opportunity to fly in one of BMA’s planes and explored area parks, a coal mine and other places.
Science, technology, engineering and math are more than just part of a two-week summer program. They are an ongoing part of BMA’s award-winning STEM program. During this school year, STEM students will travel to Andrews University’s Science Fest in the fall and will later participate in the Governor’s STEM challenge where BMA’s STEM team will invent a new product that will help the community solve a problem. This product will be presented at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in February 2020. Students will compete with other Berks County schools to continue prototyping the invention and win the chance of presenting at a statewide competition. They will also participate with the E-NABLE program that helps to create 3-D printed prosthetic hands. On campus, they will have a schoolwide competition to see who can build the best passive solar heat generator to help in BMA’s green houses.
“STEM will be immersed in each science class as we build models, solve problems, invent new prod- ucts and have fun prototyping solutions to problems,” Bechtel says. “One problem I’d like to solve on campus is to invent a product that will cut down on the amount of weeds that seem to invade our gardens on campus. I’d like to see our students create a product out of recycled organic material that will block the majority of nuisance plants and allow our decorative plants and vegetable/fruit plants to thrive.”