Medora offers two-week summer STEM camp


Asked whether she would rather sit at a desk in a classroom doing a math worksheet or participate in a STEM activity, Audie Starr didn’t hesitate.

“STEM!” she exclaimed.

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This past year at Medora Elementary School, the focus was on implementing science, technology, engineering and math to go along with a grant the school received.

Even though school recently ended, a two-week summer camp was offered to give students an opportunity to stay immersed in STEM.

Teachers Carrie Brewer and Kristen Koerner led it for the second year in a row.

“During the school year, we work hard to integrate it with what we’re already doing with ELA (English/language arts) and math, and this is just kind of a low-stressor, more fun way to do it,” Brewer said.

There were no grades, no tests and no pressure.

“I think it made them a lot more comfortable to try things and not fail. I think so much in the classroom, they are so afraid to ‘Well, if it’ doesn’t work, then …’” Brewer said.

“I think that was a positive thing with just having three kids is they weren’t afraid to fail,” Koerner said. “They were all so close.”

While this year’s summer camp only drew three students, the teachers weren’t worried about the quantity as much as the quality. As long as the students were learning and had fun, that’s all that mattered.

“They are learning, but they don’t know that they are learning,” Koerner said.

Last year’s summer camp consisted of a lot of close reads about various topics because it was integrated with IREAD-3 remediation, Brewer said.

This year, teachers did remediation for the test in May, and students retook the test the week after school let out, so STEM camp involved more hands-on activities.

The first week was a spy camp in hopes of drawing more kids.

“They kept saying, ‘We don’t want it to end. We love this.’ It was fun,” Koerner said. “We played a game where we played hide-and-seek, but they got to hide around corners with mirrors. That was really awesome.”

The lessons that week included STEM basics, collaboration, being able to build, trial and error, not giving up and problem solving.

That extended into the second week with the STEM camp, which involved more engineering design processes.

“Being a teacher, you’re stressed so much for time, and we can’t really do this because of time,” Brewer said. “If we wanted to try something else out that wasn’t in the plans (at camp), we could because we have plenty of time, and we didn’t have to get this done by the end of the day, we didn’t have to get a math lesson in, we didn’t have to get a reading lesson in.

“It was like, ‘OK, we want to experiment with this in a different way? Let’s go ahead. What do you think? How can we make this work if it didn’t work?’”

The camp will be another thing to include in Medora’s application to become a STEM-certified school.

“Hopefully, it will draw more kids in,” Koerner said of that designation. “They are learning these life skills that they need.”

From solving mysteries to playing with Legos, Starr said it was worth her time to attend the summer camp.

“It was fun,” she said.