For many students, a science fair project is a landmark assignment in the landscape of homework. Usually striking sometime between fifth and ninth grade, it’s one of the first truly large projects faced by students. Most science fairs consist of three components – experiment, documentation, presentation. Or the project, the report, and the fair itself. It’s a daunting prospect.
For some students, it’s a thrill and an adventure, a first foray into the mysteries of original research and experimentation. For many others, it’s a bother and a time-sink, one more weighty responsibility among many.
Guillermo Garcia, a veteran science teacher in Miami, wanted to help both kinds of students. He decided that the best option would be to open up a way for kids to do their projects in the summer. That way, the excited kids could have more time to expand upon their ideas without sacrificing their other coursework, and the less-invested could get the large project completed without having to give up study time for subjects that interested them more.
So Stem Summer Camp was born. Garcia holds the week-long camp sessions anywhere he can find space, each week taking 30 students. The students all work on their own projects, completing their experiments, writing their essays, designing and finishing their display boards with the help of Garcia and a few more teachers.
Students are encouraged to make their projects about any STEM topic that interests them, from physics for forensic psychology. “They do get a good self-esteem boost when their project works out and they also learn to communicate with adults and others about their work, about their results,” said Garcia, explaining that one of the overlooked benefits of competing in science fair is learning communication skills.
He also says that he can barely keep up with the demand for class space from area parents. The cost is $225 per session, and some scholarships are available.